John Calvin, Commentary on Haggai

Commentaries on the Twelve Minor Prophets by John Calvin.

Now first translated from the original Latin, by the Rev. John Owen,
vicar of Thrussington, Leicestershire.

Volume Fourth. Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai

WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, 1950, Michigan.
Printed in the United States of America.

Printed in the United States of America

The Commentaries of John Calvin on the Prophet Haggai

Calvin's Preface to Haggai
    After the return of the people, they were favoured, we know,
especially with three Prophets, who roused their fainting hearts,
and finished all predictions, until at length the Redeemer came in
his appointed time. During the time of The Babylonian Exile the
office of teaching was discharged among the captives by Ezekiel, and
also by Daniel; and there were others less celebrated; for we find
that some of the Psalms were then composed, either by the Levites,
or by some other teachers. But these two, Ezekiel and Daniel, were
above all others eminent. Then Ezra and Nehemiah followed them, the
authority of whom was great among the people; but we do not read
that they were endued with the Prophetic gift.
    It then appears certain that three only were divinely inspired
to proclaim the future condition of the people.
    Daniel had before them foretold whatever was to happen till the
coming of Christ, and his Book is a remarkable mirror of God's
Providence; for he paints, as on a tablet, three things which were
to be fulfilled after his death, and of which no man could have
formed any conjecture. He has given even the number of years from
the return of the people to the building of the Temple, and also to
the death of Christ. But we must come to the other witnesses, who
confirmed the predictions of Daniel. The Lord raised up three
witnesses - Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.
    The first condemned the sloth of the people; for, being intent
on their own advantages, they all neglected the building of the
Temple; and he shows that they were deservedly suffering punishment
for their ingratitude; for they despised God their Deliverer, or at
least honoured him less than they ought to have done, and deprived
him of the worship due to him. He then encouraged them to hope for a
complete restoration, and showed that there was no reason for them
to be disheartened by difficulties, and that though they were
surrounded by enemies, and had to bear many evils, and were
terrified by threatening edicts, they ought yet to have entertained
hope; for the Lord would perform the work which he had begun - to
restore their ancient dignity to his people, and Christ also would
at length come to secure the perfect happiness and glory of the
    This is the sum of the whole. I now come to the words.

Commentaries on the Prophet Haggai

Chapter 1

Haggai 1:1
In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, in the
first day of the month, came the word of the LORD by Haggai the
prophet unto Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and
to Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, saying,
    The Prophet mentions here the year, the month, and the day in
which he began to rouse up the people from their sloth and idleness,
by the command of God; for every one studied his own domestic
interest, and had no concern for building the Temple.
    This happened, he says, in the second year of Darius the king.
Interpreters differ as to this time; for they do not agree as to the
day or year in which the Babylonian captivity began. Some date the
beginning of the seventy years at the ruin which happened under
Jeconiah, before the erasing of the city, and the destruction of the
Temple. It is, however, probable, that a considerable time had
passed before Haggai began his office as a Prophet; for Babylon was
taken twenty years, or little more, before the death of king Cyrus;
his son Cambyses, who reigned eight years, succeeded him. The third
king was Darius, the son of Hystaspes, whom the Jews will have to be
the son of Ahasuerus by Esther; but no credit is due to their
fancies; for they hazard any bold notion in matters unknown, and
assert anything that may come to their brains or to their mouths;
and thus they deal in fables, and for the most part without any
semblance of truth. It may be sufficient for us to understand, that
this Darius was the son of Hystaspes, who succeeded Cambyses, (for I
omit the seven months of the Magi; for as they crept in by deceit,
so shortly after they were destroyed;) and it is probable that
Cambyses, who was the first-born son of Cyrus, had no male heir.
Hence it was that his brother being slain by the consent of the
nobles, the kingdom came to Darius. He, then, as we may learn from
histories, was the third king of the Persians. Daniel says, in the
fifth chapter, that the city of Babylon had been taken by Cyrus, but
that Darius the Mede reigned there.
    But between writers there is some disagreement on this point;
though all say that Cyrus was king, yet Xenophon says, that Cyaxares
was ever the first, so that Cyrus sustained only the character, as
it were, of a regent. But Xenophon, as all who have any judgement,
and are versed in history, well know, did not write a history, but
fabled most boldly according to his own fancy; for he invents the
tale that Cyrus was brought up by his maternal grandfather,
Astyages. But it is evident enough that Astyages had been conquered
in war by Cyrus. He says also that Cyrus married a wife a
considerable time after the taking of Babylon, and that she was
presented to him by his uncle Cyaxares, but that he dared not to
marry her until he returned to Persia, and his father Cambyses
approved of the marriage. Here Xenophon fables, and gives range to
his own invention, for it was not his purpose to write a history. He
is a very fine writer, it is true; but the unlearned are much
mistaken who think that he has collected all the histories of the
world. Xenophon is a highly approved philosopher, but not an
approved historian; for it was his designed object fictitiously to
relate as real facts what seemed to him most suitable. He fables
that Cyrus died in his bed, and dictated a long will, and spoke as a
philosopher in his retirement; but Cyrus, we know, died in the
Scythian war, and was slain by the queen, Tomyris, who revenged the
death of her son; and this is well known even by children. Xenophon,
however, as he wished to paint the image of a perfect prince, says
that Cyrus died in his bed. We cannot then collect from the
Cyropaeda, which Xenophon has written, anything that is true. But if
we compare the historians together, we shall find the following
things asserted almost unanimously: - That Cambyses was the son of
Cyrus; that when he suspected his younger brother he gave orders to
put him to death; that both died without any male issue; and that on
discovering the fraud of the Magi, the son of Hystaspes became the
third king of the Persian. Daniel calls Darius, who reigned in
Babylon, the Mede; but he is Cyaxares. This I readily admit; for he
reigned by sufferance, as Cyrus willingly declined the honour. And
Cyrus, though a grandson of Astyages, by his daughter Mandane, was
yet born of a father not ennobled; for Astyages, having dreamt that
all Asia would be covered by what proceeded from his daughter, was
easily induced to marry her to a stranger. When, therefore, he gave
her to Cambyses, his design was to drive her to a far country, so
that no one born of her should come to so great an empire: this was
the advice of the Magi. Cyrus then acquired a name and reputation,
no doubt, only by his own efforts; nor did he venture at first to
take the name of a king, but suffered his uncle, and at the same
time his father-in-law, to reign with him; and yet he was his
colleague only for two years; for Cyasares lived no longer than the
taking of Babylon.
    I come then now to our Prophet: he says, In the second year of
Darius it was commanded to me by the Lord to reprove the sloth of
the people. We may readily conclude that more than twenty years had
elapsed since the people began to return to their own country. Some
say thirty or forty years, and others go beyond that number; but
this is not probable. Some say that the Jews returned to their
country in the fifty-eighth year of their captivity; but this is not
true, and may be easily disproved by the words of Daniel as well as
by the history of Ezra. Daniel says in the ninth chapter that he was
reminded by God of the return of the people when the time prescribed
by Jeremiah was drawing nigh. And as this happened not in the first
year of Darius, the son of Hystaspes, but about the end of the reign
of Belshasar before Babylon was taken, it follows that the time of
the exile was then fulfilled. We have also this at the beginning of
the history, 'When seventy years were accomplished, God roused the
spirit of Cyrus the king.' We hence see that Cyrus had not allowed
the free return of the people but at the time predicted by Jeremiah,
and according to what Isaiah had previously taught, that Cyrus,
before he was born, had been chosen for this work: and then God
began openly to show how truly he had spoken before the people were
driven into exile. But if we grant that the people returned in the
fifty-eighth year, the truth of prophecy will not appear. They
therefore speak very thoughtlessly who say that the Jews returned to
their country before the seventieth year; for thus they subvert, as
I hare said, every notion of God's favour.
    Since then seventy years had elapsed when Babylon was taken,
and Cyrus by a public edict permitted the Jews to return to their
country, God at that time stretched forth his hand in behalf of the
miserable exiles; but troubles did afterwards arise to them from
their neighbours. Some under the guise of friendship wished to join
them, in order to obliterate the name of Israel; and that they might
make a sort of amalgamation of many nations. Then others openly
carried on war with them; and when Cyrus was with his army in
Scythia, his prefects became hostile to the Jews, and thus a delay
was effected. Then followed Cambyses, a most cruel enemy to the
Church of God. Hence the building of the Temple could not be
proceeded with until the time of this Darius, the son of Hystaspes.
But as Darius, the son of Hystaspes, favoured the Jews, or at least
was pacified towards them, he restrained the neighbouring nations
from causing any more delay as to the building of the Temple. He
ordered his prefects to protect the people of Israel, so that they
might live quietly in their country and finish the Temple, which had
only been begun. And we may hence conclude that the Temple was built
in forty-six years, according to what is said in the second chapter
of John; for the foundations were laid immediately on the return of
the people, but the work was either neglected or hindered by
    But as liberty to build the Temple was given to the Jews, we
may gather from what our Prophet says, that they were guilty of
ingratitude towards God; for private benefit was by every one almost
exclusively regarded, and there was hardly any concern for the
worship of God. Hence the Prophet now reproves this indifference,
allied as it was with ungodliness: for what could be more base than
to enjoy the country and the inheritance which God had formerly
promised to Abraham, and yet to make no account of God, nor of that
special favour which he wished to confer - that of dwelling among
them? An habitation on mount Sion had been chosen, we know, by God,
that thence might come forth the Redeemer of the world. As then this
business was neglected, and each one built his own house, justly
does the Prophet here reprove them with vehemence in the name and by
the command of God. Thus much as to the time. And he says in the
second year of Darius, for a year had now elapsed since liberty to
build the Temple had been allowed them; but the Jews were negligent,
because they were too much devoted to their own private advantages.
    And he says, that "the word was given by his hand to
Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, and to Joshua, the son of
Josedech". We shall hereafter see that this communication had a
regard without distinction to the whole community; and, if a
probable conjecture be entertained, neither Zerubbabel nor Joshua
were at fault, because the Temple ass neglected; nay, we may with
certainty conclude from what Zechariah says, that Zerubbabel was a
wise prince, and that Joshua faithfully discharged his office as a
priest. Since then both spent their labour for God, how was it that
the Prophet addressed them? and since the whole blame belonged to
the people, why did he not speak to them? why did he not assemble
the whole multitude? The Lord, no doubt, intended to connect
Zerubbabel and Joshua with his servant as associates, that they
three might go forth to the people, and deliver with one mouth what
God had committed to his servant Haggai. This then is the reason why
the Prophet says, that he was sent to Zerubbabel and Joshua.
    Let us at the same time learn, that princes and those to whom
God has committed the care of governing his Church, never so
faithfully perform their office, nor discharge their duties so
courageously and strenuously, but that they stand in need of being
roused, and, as it were, stimulated by many goads. I have already
said, that in other places Zerubbabel and Joshua are commended; yet
the Lord reproved them and severely expostulated with them, because
they neglected the building of the Temple. This was done, that they
might confirm by their authority what the Prophet was about to say:
but he also intimates, that they were not wholly free from blame,
while the people were thus negligent in pursuing the work of
building the Temple.
    Zerubbabel is called the son of Shealtiel: some think that son
is put here for grandson, and that his father's name was passed
over. But this seems not probable. They quote from the Chronicles a
passage in which his father's name is said to be Pedaiah: but we
know that it was often the case among that people, that a person had
two names. I therefore regard Zerubbabel to have been the son of
Shealtiel. He is said to have been the governors of Judah; for it
was necessary that some governing power should continue in that
tribe, though the royal authority was taken away, and all
sovereignty and supreme power extinguished. It was yet God's purpose
that some vestiges of power should remain, according to what had
been predicted by the patriarch Jacob, 'Taken away shall not be the
sceptre from Judah, nor a leader from his thigh, until he shall
come;' &c. (Gen. 49: 10.) The royal sceptre was indeed taken away,
and the crown was removed, according to what Ezekiel had said, 'Take
away the crown, subvert, subvert, subvert it,' (Ezek. 21: 26, 27;)
for the interruption of the government had been sufficiently long.
Yet the Lord in the meantime preserved some remnants, that the Jews
might know that that promise was not wholly forgotten. This then is
the reason why the son of Shealtiel is said to be the governor of
Judah. It now follows -

Haggai 1:2-4
2 Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, This people say, The time
is not come, the time that the LORD'S house should be built.
3 Then came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet, saying,
4 [Is it] time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled houses, and
this house [lie] waste?
    They who think that seventy years had not passed until the
reign of Darius, may from this passage be easily disproved: for if
the seventy years were not accomplished, an excuse would have been
ready at hand, - that they had deferred the work of building the
Temple; but it was certain, that the time had then elapsed, and that
it was owing to their indifference that the Temple was not erected,
for all the materials were appropriated to private uses. While then
they were thus taking care of themselves and consulting their own
interest, the building of the Temple was neglected. That the Temple
was not built till the reign of Darius, this happened, as we have
said, from another cause, because the prefects of king Cyrus gave
much annoyance to the Jews, and Cambyses was most hostile to them.
But when liberty was restored to them, and Darius had so kindly
permitted them to build the Temple, they had no excuse for delay.
    It is however probable that they had then many disputes as to
the time; for it may have been, that they seizing on any pretext to
cover their sloth, made this objection, - that many difficulties had
occurred, because they had been too precipitate, and that they had
thus been punished for their haste, because they had rashly
undertaken the building of the Temple: and we may also suppose that
they took another view of the time as having not yet come, for
easily might this objection occur to them, - "It is indeed true that
the worship of God is deservedly to be preferred to all other
things; but the Lord grants us this indulgence, so that we are
allowed to build our own houses; and in the meantime we attend to
the sacrifices. Have not our fathers lived many ages without a
Temple? God was then satisfied with a sanctuary: there is now an
altar erected, and there sacrifices are offered. The Lord then will
forgive us if we defer the building of the Temple to a suitable
time. But in the meantime every one may build his own house, so that
afterwards the Temple may at leisure be built more sumptuously."
However this may have been, we find that true which I have often
stated, - that the Jews were so taken up with their own domestic
concerns, with their own ease, and with their own pleasures, that
they made very little account of God's worship. This is the reason
why the Prophet was so greatly displeased with them.
    He declares what they said, "This people say, The time is not
yet come to build the house of Jehovah". He repeats here what the
Jews were wont to allege in order to disguise their sloth, after
having delayed a long time, and when they could not, except through
consummate effrontery, adduce anything in their own defence. We
however see, that they hesitated not to promise pardon to
themselves. Thus also do men indulge themselves in their sins, as
though they could make an agreement with God and pacify him with
some frivolous things. We see that this was the case then. But we
may also see here, as in a mirror, how great is the ingratitude of
men. The kindness of God had been especially worthy of being
remembered, the glory of which ought to have been borne in mind to
the end of time: they had been restored from exile in a manner
beyond what they had ever expected. What ought they to have done,
but to have devoted themselves entirely to the service of their
deliverer? But they built, no, not even a tent for God, and
sacrificed in the open air; and thus they wilfully trifled with God.
But at the same time they dwelt at ease in houses elegantly fitted
    And how is the case at this day? We see that through a
remarkable miracle of God the gospel has shone forth in our time,
and we have emerged, as it were, from the abodes below. Who does now
rear up, of his own free-will, an altar to God? On the contrary, all
regard what is advantageous only to themselves; and while they are
occupied with their own concerns, the worship of God is cast aside;
there is no care, no zeal, no concern for it; nay, what is worse,
many make gain of the gospel, as though it were a lucrative
business. No wonder then, if the people have so basely disregarded
their deliverance, and have almost obliterated the memory of it. No
less shameful is the example witnessed at this day among us.
    But we may hence also see how kindly God has provided for his
Church; for his purpose was that this reproof should continue
extant, that he might at this day stimulate us, and excite our fear
as well as our shame. For we also thus grow frigid in promoting the
worship of God, whenever we are led to seek only our own advantages.
We may also add, that as God's temple is spiritual, our fault is the
more atrocious when we become thus slothful; since God does not bid
us to collect either wood, or stones, or cement, but to build a
celestial temple, in which he may be truly worshipped. When
therefore we become thus indifferent, as that people were thus
severely reproved, doubtless our sloth is much more detestable. We
now see that the Prophet not only spoke to men of his age, but was
also destined, through God's wonderful purpose, to be a preacher to
us, so that his doctrine sounds at this day in our ears, and
reproves our torpor and ungrateful indifference: for the building of
the spiritual temple is deferred, whenever we become devoted to
ourselves, and regard only what is advantageous to us individually.
We shall go on with what follows to-morrow.
Grant, Almighty God, that as we must carry on a warfare in this
world, and as it is thy will to try us with many contests, - O
grant, that we may never faint, however extreme may be the trials
which we shall have to endure: and as thou hast favoured us with so
great an honour as to make us the framers and builders of thy
spiritual temple, may every one of us present and consecrate himself
wholly to thee: and, inasmuch as each of us has received some
peculiar gift, may we strive to employ it in building this temple,
so that thou mayest be worshipped among us perpetually; and
especially, may each of us offer himself wholly as a spiritual
sacrifice to thee, until we shall at length be renewed in thine
image, and be received into a full participation of that glory,
which has been attained for us by the blood of thy only-begotten
Son. Amen.

Lecture One Hundred and Twenty-ninth.
    When the Prophet asks, whether the time had come for the Jews
to dwell in splendid and well furnished houses, and whether the time
had not come to build the Temple, he intimates, that they were
trifling in a very gross manner with God; for there was exactly the
same reason for building the Temple as for building the city. How
came they to be restored to their country, but that God performed
what he had testified by the mouth of Jeremiah? Hence their return
depended on the redemption promised to them: it was therefore easy
for them to conclude, that the time for building the Temple had
already come; for the one could not, and ought not to have been
separated from the other, as it has been stated. He therefore
upbraids them with ingratitude, for they sought to enjoy the
kindness of God, and at the same time disregarded the memorial of
    And very emphatical are the words, when he says, "Is it time
for you to dwell in houses?" For there is implied a comparison
between God, whose Temple they set no value on, and themselves, who
sought not only commodious, but sumptuous dwellings. Hence the
Prophet inquires, whether it was consistent that mortal men, who
differ not from worms, should possess magnificent houses, and that
God should be without his Temple. And to the same purpose is what he
adds, when he says, that their houses were boarded; for "sfunim",
means in Hebrew what we express by Cambrisees. Since then they were
not satisfied with what was commodious, without splendour and luxury
being added, it was extremely shameful for them to rob God at the
same time of his Temple, where he was to be worshipped. It now
follows -

Haggai 1:5,6
Now therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways.
Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not
enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you,
but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages [to
put it] into a bag with holes.
    Here the Prophet deals with the refractory people according to
what their character required; for as to those who are teachable and
obedient, a word is enough for them; but they who are perversely
addicted to their sins must be more sharply urged, as the Prophet
does here; for he brings before the Jews the punishments by which
they had been already visited. It is commonly said, that experience
is the teacher of fools; and the Prophet has this in view in these
words, "apply  your hearts to your ways;" that is, "If the authority
of God or a regard for him is of no importance among you, at least
consider how God deals with you. How comes it that ye are famished,
that both heaven and earth deny food to you? Besides, though ye
consume much food, it yet does not satisfy you. In a word, how is it
that all things fade away and vanish in your hands? How is this? Ye
cannot otherwise account for it, but that God is displeased with
you. If then ye will not of your own accord obey God's word, let
these judgements at least induce you to repent." It was to apply the
heart to their ways, when they acknowledged that they were thus
famished, not by chance, but that the curse of God urged them, or
was suspended over their heads. He therefore bids them to receive
instruction from the events themselves, or from what they were
experiencing; and by these words the Prophet more sharply teaches
them; as though he had said, that they profited nothing by
instruction and warning, and that it remained as the last thing,
that they were to be drawn by force while the Lord was chastising
    He says that they had sown much, and that small was the
produce. They who render the clause in the future tense, wrest the
meaning of the Prophet: for why did he say, apply your heart to your
ways, if he only denounced a future punishment? But, as I have
already stated, he intimates, that they very thoughtlessly champed
the bridle, for they perceived not that all their evils were
inflicted by God's hand, nor did they regard his judgement as
righteous. Hence he says, that they had sowed much, and that the
harvest had been small; and then, that they ate and were not
satisfied; that they drank and had not their thirst quenched; that
they clothed themselves and were not warmed. How much soever they
applied those things which seemed necessary for the support of life,
they yet availed them nothing. And God, we know, does punish men in
these two ways either by withdrawing his blessings, by rendering the
earth arid and the heavens dry; or by making the abundant produce
unsatisfying and even useless. It often happens that men gather what
is sufficient for support, and yet they are always hungry. It is a
kind of curse, which appears very evident when God takes away their
nourishing power from bread and wine, so that they supply no support
to man. When therefore fruit, and whatever the earth produces for
the necessities of man, give no support, God proves, as it were by
an outstretched arm, that he is an avenger. But the other curse is
more frequent; that is, when God smites the earth with drought, so
that it produces nothing. But our Prophet refers to both these kinds
of evils. Behold, he says, Ye have sown much and ye gather little;
and then he says, "Though ye are supplied with the produce of wine
and corn, yet with eating and drinking ye cannot satisfy yourselves;
nay, your very clothes do not make you warm." They might have had a
sure hope of the greatest abundance, had they not broken off the
stream of God's favour by their sins. Were they not then extremely
blind this experience must have awakened them, according to what is
said in the first chapter of Joel.
    He says at the end of the verse, "He who gains wages, gains
then for a perforated bag". By these words he reminds them, that the
vengeance of God could not only be seen in the sterility of the
earth, and in the very hunger of men, who by eating were not
satisfied; but also in their work, for they wearied themselves much
without any profit, as even the money cast into the bag disappeared.
Hence he says, even your work is in vain. It was indeed a most
manifest proof of God's wrath, when their money, though laid up, yet
vanished away.
    We now see what the Prophet means: As his doctrine appeared
frigid to the Jews and his warnings were despised, he treats them
according to the perverseness of their disposition. Hence he shows,
that though they disregarded God and his Prophets, they were yet
sufficiently taught by his judgements, and that still they remained
indifferent. He therefore goads them, as though they were asses,
that they might at length acknowledge that God was justly displeased
with them, and that his wrath was conspicuous in the sterility of
the land, as well as in everything connected with their life; for
whether they did eat or abstained from food, they were hungry; and
when they diligently laboured and gathered wages, their wages
vanished, as though they had cast them into a perforated bag. It
follows -

Haggai 1:7,8
Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways.
Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house; and I
will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the LORD.
    The Prophet now adds, that since the Jews were thus taught by
their evils, nothing else remained for them but to prepare
themselves without delay for the work of building the Temple; for
they were not to defer the time, inasmuch as they were made to know,
that God had come forth with an armed hand to vindicate his own
right: for the sterility of which he had spoken, and also the famine
and other signs of a curse, were like a drawn sword in the hand of
God; by which it was evident, that he intended to punish the
negligence of the people. As God then had been robbed of his right,
he not only exhorted the people by his Prophets, but also executed
his vengeance on this contempt.
    This is the reason why the Prophet now says, "Apply your
heart", and then adds, "Go up to the mountain, bring wood", &c. And
this passage strikingly sets forth why God punished their sins, in
order that they might not only perceive that they had sinned, but
that they might also seek to amend that which displeased God. We may
also, in the second place, learn from what is said, how we are to
proceed rightly in the course of true repentance. The beginning is,
that our sins should become displeasing to us; but if any of us
proceed no farther, it will be only an evanescent feeling: it is
therefore necessary to advance to the second step; an amendment for
the better ought to follow. The Prophet expresses both here: He says
first, Lay your heart on your ways; that is, "Consider whence comes
this famine to you, and then how it is that by labouring much ye
gain nothing, except that God is angry with you." Now this was what
wisdom required. But he again repeats the same thing, "Lay your
heart on your ways," that is, "Not only that sin may be hated by
you, but also that this sloth, which has hitherto offended God and
provoked his wrath, may be changed into strenuous activity." Hence
he says, " Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and let the house
be built".
    If any one is at a loss to know why the Prophet insists so much
on building the Temple, the ready answer is this that it was God's
design to exercise in this way his ancient people in the duties of
religion. Though then the Temple itself was of no great importance
before God, yet the end was to be regarded; for the people were
preserved by the visible Temple in the hope of the future Christ;
and then it behaved them always to bear in mind the heavenly
pattern, that they might worship God spiritually under the external
symbols. It was not then without reason that God was offended with
their neglect of the temple; for it hence clearly appeared, that
there was no care nor zeal for religion among the Jews. It often was
the case that they were more sedulous than necessary in external
worship, and God scorned their assiduity, when not connected with a
right inward feeling; but the gross contempt of God in disregarding
even the external building, is what is reprehended here by the
    He afterwards adds, "And I will be propitious in it", or, I
will take pleasure in it. Some read, "It will please me;" and they
depart not from the real meaning of the verb: for "ratzah" is to be
acceptable. But more correct, in my view, is the opinion of those
who think that the Prophet alludes to the promise of God; for he had
said, that he would on this condition dwell among the Jews, that he
might hear their prayers, and be propitious to them. As, then, the
Jews came to the Temple to expiate their sins, that they might
return to God's favour, it is not without reason that God here
declares that he would be propitious in that house. 'If any one
sin,' said Solomon, 'and entering this house, shall humbly pray, do
thou also hear from thy heavenly habitation.' (1 Kings 8: 30.) We
further know that the covering of the ark was called the
propitiatory, because God there received the suppliant into favour.
This meaning, then, seems the most suitable - that the Prophet says,
that if the Temple was built, God would be there propitious. But it
was a proof of extreme impiety to think that they could prosper
while God was adverse to them: for whence could they hope for
happiness, except from the only fountain of all blessings, that is,
when God favoured them and was propitious to them? And how could his
favour be sought, except they came to his sanctuary, and thence
raise up their minds by faith to heaven? When, therefore, there was
no care for the Temple, it was easy to conclude that God himself was
neglected, and regarded almost with scorn. We then see how
emphatically this was added, I will be propitious there, that is, in
the Temple; as though he had said, "Your infirmity ought to have
reminded you that you have need of this help, even of worshipping me
in the sanctuary. But as I gave you, as it were, a visible mirror of
my presence among you, when I ordered a Temple to be built for me on
mount Sion, when ye despise the Temple, is it not the same as though
I was rejected by you?"
    He then adds, "And I shall be glorified, saith Jehovah". He
seems to express the reason why he should be propitious; for he
would then see that his glory was regarded by the Jews. At the same
time, this reason may be taken by itself, and this is what I prefer.
The Prophet then employs two goads to awaken the Jews: When the
Temple was built, God would bless them; for they would have him
pacified, and whenever they found him displeased, they might come as
suppliants to seek pardon; this was one reason why it behaved them
strenuously to undertake the building of the Temple. The second
reason was, that God would be glorified. Now, what could have been
more inconsistent than to disregard God their deliverer, and so late
a deliverer too? But how God was glorified by the Temple I have
already briefly explained; not that it added anything to God; but
such ordinances of religion were then necessary, as the Jews were as
yet like children. It now follows -

Haggai 1:9
Ye looked for much, and, lo, [it came] to little; and when ye
brought [it] home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the LORD of hosts.
Because of mine house that [is] waste, and ye run every man unto his
own house.
    Here the Prophet relates again, that the Jews were deprived of
support, and that they in a manner pined away in their distress,
because they robbed God of the worship due to him. He first repeats
the fact, "Ye have looked for much, but behold little". It may
happen that one is contented with a very slender portion, because
much is not expected. They who are satisfied with their own penury
are not anxious though their portion of food is but scanty, though
they are constrained to feed on acorns. Those who are become
hardened in enduring evils, do not seek much; but they who desire
much, are more touched and vexed by their penury. This is the reason
why the Prophet says, Ye have looked for much, and, behold, there
was but little; that is, "Ye are not like the peasants, who satisfy
themselves with any sort of food, and are not troubled on account of
their straitened circumstances; but your desire has led you to seek
abundance. Hence ye seek and greedily lay hold on things on every
side; but, behold, it comes to little."
    In the second place he adds, "Ye have brought it home". He
farther mentions another kind of evil - that when they gathered
wine, and corn, and money, all these things immediately vanished. Ye
have brought it home, "and I have blown upon it". By saying that
they brought it home, he intimates that what they had acquired was
laid up, that it might be preserved safely; for they who had filled
their storehouses, and wine-cellars, and bags, thought that they had
no more to do with God. Hence it was that profane men securely
indulged themselves; they thought that they were beyond the reach of
danger, when their houses were well filled. God, on the contrary,
shows that their houses became empty, when filled with treasures and
provisions. But he speaks still more distinctly - that he had blown
upon them, that is, that he had dissipated them by his breath: for
the Prophet did not deem it enough historically to narrate what the
Jews had experienced; but his purpose also was to point out the
cause, as it were, by the finger. He therefore teaches us, that what
they laid in store in their houses did not without a cause vanish
away; but that this happened through the blowing of God, even
because he cursed their blessing, according to what we shall
hereafter see in the Prophet Malachi.
    He then adds, "Why is this? saith Jehovah of hosts". God here
asks, not because he had any doubts on the subject, but that he
might by this sort of goading rouse the Jews from their lethargy, -
"Think of the cause, and know that my hand is not guided by a blind
impulse when it strikes you. You ought, then, to consider the reason
why all things thus decay and perish." Here again is sharply
reproved the stupidity of the people, because they attended not to
the cause of their evils; for they ought to have known this of
    But God gives the answer, because he saw that they remained
stupefied - "On account of my house, he says, because it is waste."
God here assigns the cause; he shows that though no one of them
considered why they were so famished, the judgement of his curse was
yet sufficiently manifest, on account of the Temple remaining a
waste. "And you, he says, run, every one to his own house". Some
read, "You take delight, every one in his own house;" for it is the
verb "ratzah", which we have lately noticed; and it means either to
take pleasure in a thing, or to run. Every one, then, runs to his
house, or, Every one delights in his house. But it is more suitable
to the context to give this rendering, "Every one runs to his
house." For the Prophet here reminds the Jews that they were slow
and slothful in the work of building the Temple, because they
hastened to their private houses. He then reproves here their ardour
in being intent on building their own houses, so that they had no
leisure to build the Temple. This is the hastening which the Prophet
blames and condemns in the Jews.
    We may hence learn again, that they had long delayed to build
the sanctuary after the time had arrived: for, as we have mentioned
yesterday, they who think the Jews returned in the fifty-eighth
year, and that they had not then undergone the punishment denounced
by Jeremiah, are very deluded; for they thus obscure the favour of
God; nay, they wholly subvert the truth of the promises, as though
they had returned contrary to God's will, through the permission of
Cyrus, when yet Isaiah says, that Cyrus would be the instrument of
their promised redemption. (Is. 45: 5.) Surely, then, Cyrus must
have been dead before the time was fulfilled! and in that case God
could not have been the redeemer of his people. Therefore Eusebius,
and those who agree with him, did thus most absurdly confound the
order of time. It now follows -

Haggai 1:10,11
Therefore the heaven over you is stayed from dew, and the earth is
stayed [from] her fruit.
And I called for a drought upon the land, and upon the mountains,
and upon the corn, and upon the new wine, and upon the oil, and upon
[that] which the ground bringeth forth, and upon men, and upon
cattle, and upon all the labour of the hands.

    He confirms what the last verse contains - that God had made it
evident that he was displeased with the people because their zeal
for religion had become cold, and, especially, because they were all
strangely devoted to their own interest and manifested no concern
for building the Temple. Hence, he says, therefore the heavens are
shut up and withhold the dew; that is, they distil no dew on the
earth; and he adds, that the earth was closed that it produced no
fruit; it yielded no increase, and disappointed its cultivators. As
to the particle "'al-ken", we must bear in mind what I have stated,
that God did not regard the external and visible Temple, but rather
the end for which it was designed; for it was his will then that he
should be worshipped under the ceremonies of the law. When,
therefore, the Jews offered mutilated, lame, or diseased sacrifices,
they manifested impiety and contempt of God. It is yet true, that it
was the same thing as to God; but he had not commanded sacrifices to
be offered to him for his own sake, but that by such services they
might foster true religion. When, therefore, he says now, that he
punished their neglect of the Temple, we ought ever to regard that
as a pattern of heavenly things, so that we may understand that the
coldness and indifference of the Jews were reproved; because it
hence evidently appeared that they had no care for the worship of
    With respect to the withholding of dew and of produce, we know
that the Prophets took from the law what served to teach the people,
and accommodated it to their own purposes. The curses of the law are
general. (Deut. 11: 17.) It is therefore the same thing as though
the Prophet had said, that what God had threatened by Moses was
really fulfilled. It ought not to have been to them a new thing,
that whenever heaven denied its dew and rain it was a sign of God's
wrath. But as, at this day, during, wars, or famine, or pestilence,
men do not regard this general truth, it is necessary to make the
application: and godly teachers ought wisely to attend to this
point, that is, to remind men, according to what the state of things
and circumstances may require, that God proves by facts what he has
testified in his word. This is what is done by our Prophet now,
withheld have the heavens the dew and the earth its produce.
    In a word, God intimates, that the heavens leave no care to
provide for us, and to distil dew so that the earth may bring forth
fruit, and that the earth also, though called the mother of men,
does not of itself open its bowels, but that the heavens as well as
the earth bear a sure testimony to his paternal love, and also to
the care which he exercises over us. God then shows, both by the
heavens and the earth, that he provides for us; for when the heavens
and the earth administer and supply us with the blessings of God,
they thus declare his love towards us. So also, when the heaven is,
as it were, iron, and when the earth with closed bowels refuses us
food, we ought to know that they are commissioned to execute on us
the vengeance of God. For they are not only the instruments of his
bounty, but, when it is necessary, God employs them for the purpose
of punishing us. This is briefly the meaning.
Grant, Almighty God, that since thou kindly and graciously invites
us to thyself, we may not wait until thou stimulates us with goads,
but cast aside our sloth and run quickly to thee. And when our
torpor so possesses us as to render punishment necessary, permit us
not to harden ourselves; but being at length effectually warned, and
we return to the right way, and strive so to render all we do
approved by thee, that we may find a door opened to thy grace and
favour: and being made partakers of those blessed, by which thou
affordest a taste of that goodness which we shall enjoy in heaven,
may we ever aspire thither, and be satisfied with the abundant
blessings which we daily and even continually receive from thine
hand, in such a manner as not to be detained by this world; but may
we, with minds raised up to heaven, ever tend upwards, and labour
for that perfect happiness which is there laid up fur us by Christ
our Lord. Amen.

Lecture One hundred and Thirtieth.

Haggai 1:12
Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of
Josedech, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people,
obeyed the voice of the LORD their God, and the words of Haggai the
prophet, as the LORD their God had sent him, and the people did fear
before the LORD.
    The Prophet here declares that his message had not been without
fruit, for shortly after the whole people prepared themselves for
the work. And he names both Zerubbabel and Joshua; for it behaved
them to lead the way, and, as it were, to extend a hand to others.
For, had there been no leaders, no one of the common people would
have pointed out the way to the rest. We know what usually happens
when a word is addressed indiscriminately to all the people: they
wait for one another. But when Joshua and Zerubbabel attended to the
commands of the Prophet, the others followed them: for they were
dominant, not only in power, but also in authority, so that they
induced the people willingly to do their duty. One was the governor
of the people, the other was the high priest; but the honesty and
faithfulness of both were well known, so that the people
spontaneously followed their example.
    And this passage teaches us that though God invites all to his
service, yet as any one excels in honour or in other respects, so
the more promptly he ought to undertake what is proposed by the
authority of God. Our Prophet, no doubt, meant to point out this due
order of things, by saying, that he was heard first by Zerubbabel
and Joshua, and then by the whole people.
    But as all had not returned from exile, but a small portion,
compared with that great number, which, we know, had not availed
themselves of the kindness allowed them - this is the reason why the
Prophet does not simply name the people, but the remnant of the
people, "she'rit ha'am". As also the gift of prophecy had been for a
long time more rare, and few appeared among the people who had any
decided evidence of their call, such as Samuel, Isaiah, David, and
others possessed, the Prophet, for this reason, does here more
carefully commend and honour his own office: he says that the people
attended to the voice of Jehovah - How? By attending, he says, to
the words of Haggai the Prophet, inasmuch as Jehovah their God had
sent him. He might have said more shortly that his labour had not
been without fruit; but he used this circuitous mode of speaking,
that he might confirm his own call; and he did this designedly,
because the people had for a long time been without the opportunity
of hearing God's Prophets, for there were none among them.
    But Haggai says nothing here but what belongs in common to all
teachers in the Church: for we know that men are not sent by divine
authority to speak that God himself may be silent. As then the
ministers of the word derogate nothing from the authority of God, it
follows that none except the only true God ought to be heard. It is
not then a peculiar expression, which is to be restricted to one
man, when God is said to have spoken by the mouth of Haggai; for he
thus declared that he was God's true and authorised Prophet. We may
therefore gather from these words, that the Church is not to be
ruled by the outward preaching of the word, as though God had
substituted men in his own place, and thus divested himself of his
own office, but that he only speaks by their mouth. And this is the
import of these words, "The people attended to the voice of Jehovah
their God, and to the words of Haggai the Prophet". For the word of
God is not distinguished from the words of the Prophet, as though
the Prophet had added anything of his own. Haggai then ascribed
these words to himself, not that he devised anything himself, so as
to corrupt the pure doctrine which had been delivered to him by God,
but that he only distinguished between God, the author of the
doctrine, and his minister, as when it is said, "The sword of God
and of Gideon," (Jud. 7: 20,) and also, "The people believed God and
Moses his servant." (Ex. 14:  31.) nothing is ascribed to Moses or
to Gideon apart from God; but God himself is placed in the highest
honour, and then Moses and Gideon are joined to him. In the same
sense do the Apostles write, when they say, that "it had pleased the
Holy spirit" and themselves. (Acts 15: 22.)
    And hence it is evident how foolish and ridiculous are the
Papists, who hence conclude that it is lawful for men to add their
own inventions to the word of God. For the Apostles, they say, not
only alleged the authority of the Holy Spirit, but also say, that it
seemed good to themselves. God then does not so claim, they say, all
things for himself, as not to leave some things to the decision of
his Church, as though indeed the Apostles meant something different
from what our Prophet means here; that is, that they truly and
faithfully delivered what their had received from the spirit of God.
    It is therefore a mode of speaking which ought to be carefully
marked, when we hear, that the voice of God and the words of Haggai
were reverently attended to by the people. - Why? Inasmuch, he says,
as God had sent him; as though he had said, that God was heard when
he spoke by the mouth of man. And this is also worthy of being
noticed, because many fanatics boast, that they allow regard to the
word of the Lord, but are unwilling to give credit to men, as that
would be even preposterous; and they pretend, that in this way what
belongs to the only true God is transferred to creatures. But the
Holy spirit most easily reconciles these two things - that the voice
of God is heard when the people embrace what they hear from the
mouth of a Prophet. Why so? because it pleases God thus to try the
obedience of our faith, while he commits to man this office. For if
the Lord was pleased to speak himself, then justly might men be
neglected: but as he has chosen this mode, whosoever reject God's
Prophets, clearly show that they despise God himself. There is no
need of inquiring here, why it is that we ought to obey the word
preached or the external voice of men, rather than revelations; it
is enough for us to know that this is the will of God. When
therefore he sends Prophets to us, we ought unquestionably to
receive what they bring.
    And Haggai says also expressly, that he was sent by the God of
Israel; as though he had said, that the people had testified their
true piety when they acknowledged God's Prophet in his legitimate
vocation. For he who clamorously objects, and says that he knows not
whether it pleases God or not to send forth men to announce his
word, shows himself to be wholly alienated from God: for it ought to
be sufficiently evident to us that this is one of our first
    He afterwards adds, that the people "feared before Jehovah."
Haggai confirms here the same truth - that the people received not
what they heard from the mouth of mortal man, otherwise than if the
majesty of God had openly appeared. For there was no ocular view of
God given; but the message of the Prophet obtained as much power as
though God had descended from heaven, and had given manifest tokens
of his presence. We may then conclude from these words, that the
glory of God so shines in his word, that we ought to be so much
affected by it, whenever he speaks by his servants, as though he
were nigh to us, face to face, as the Scripture says in another
place. It now follows -

Haggai 1:13,14
Then spake Haggai the LORD'S messenger in the LORD'S message unto
the people, saying, I [am] with you, saith the LORD.
And the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of
Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of
Josedech, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the
people; and they came and did work in the house of the LORD of
hosts, their God,
    The Prophet tells us here, that he had again roused the leaders
as well as the common people; for except God frequently repeats his
exhortations, our alacrity relaxes. Though then they had all
attended to God's command, it was yet necessary that they should be
strengthened by a new promise: for men can be encouraged, and their
indifference can be corrected, by no other means, to such a degree,
as when God offers and promises his help. This, then, was the way in
which they were now encouraged, I am with you. And experience
sufficiently shows, that we never really and from the heart obey,
except when we rely on his promises and hope for a happy success.
For were God only to call us to our work, and were our hope
doubtful, all our zeal would doubtless die away. We cannot then
devote our services to God, except he supports and encourages us by
promises. We also see, that it is not enough that God should speak
once, and that we should once receive his word, but there is need
that he should rouse us again and again; for the greatest ardour
grows cold when no goads are applied.
    And the Prophet makes known again his vocation, for he says,
that "he spake in the message of Jehovah", for he was his messenger.
The word "mal'ach" means a messenger; and as angels are called
"mal'achim", some foolish men have thought that Haggai was one of
the celestial angels, clothed with the form of man: but this is a
most frivolous conjecture; for priests, we know, are honoured with
this title in the second chapter of Malachi, and God in many other
places calls his Prophets messengers or ambassadors. There is,
therefore, no doubt but that Haggai meant simply to testify, that he
brought forward nothing presumptuously, but was a faithful dispenser
of the word; for he knew that he was sent by God; and that he might
attain attention, he was able justly to testify that his message
came from heaven.
    Hence he says, that he spake as a "messenger of Jehovah in the
message of Jehovah"; that is, he spoke according to his calling, and
not as a private individual, but as one who derived his authority
from heaven, and could call to order the whole people; for he was to
give way neither to the chief priest nor to Zerubbabel the ruler of
the people, inasmuch as he was superior to them on this account,
because he had a message which had been committed to him by God. We
now then understand the design of the Prophet.
    And we hence learn that there is no dignity which exempts us
from obedience common to all, when God's word is addressed to us.
Doubtless Joshua the high priest was superior to all the rest in
matters of religion, and he was the chief angel or messenger of the
God of hosts; and yet he refused not to submit himself to God's
Prophet, for he understood that he was in a special manner appointed
by God to this office. Zerubbabel, the governor of the people,
followed also his example. Let us, then, know that God's word is
proclaimed under this condition, that no eminence, either in honour
or in dignity, exempts us, as it were, by a sort of privilege, from
the obligation of receiving it.
    The Prophet at length adds, that the people hastened quickly to
the work, because God had given encouragement to them all. He had
lately spoken of the fruit of his doctrine; but he now declares that
his voice had not so penetrated into the hearts of all, as though it
had been of itself efficacious, but that it had been connected with
the hidden influence of the Spirit.
    And this passage is remarkable; for the Prophet includes both
these things - that God allows not his word to be useless or
unfruitful - and yet that this proceeds not from the diligence of
men, but from the hidden power of the Spirit. The Prophet, then, did
not fail in his efforts; for his labour was not in vain, but brought
forth fruit. At the same time, that that saying might remain true,
'He who plants and he who waters is nothing,' (1 Cor. 3: 7,) he
says, that the Israelites were ready for the work, because the Lord
roused them; Jehovah, he says, stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel,
the spirit of Joshua, and of the whole people. It is not right to
restrict the influence of the Spirit to one thing only, as some do,
who imagine that the Israelites were confirmed in their good
resolution, as they say, having before spontaneously obeyed the word
of God. These separate, without reason, what ought to be read in the
Prophet as connected together. For God roused the spirit of
Zerubbabel and of the whole people; and hence it was that they
received the message of the Prophet, and were attentive to his
words. Foolishly, then, do they imagine that the Israelites were led
by their own free-will to obey the word of God, and then that some
aid of the Holy Spirit followed, to make them firmly to persevere in
their course. But the Prophet declared, in the first place, that his
message was respectfully received by the people; and now he explains
how it was, even because God had touched the hearts of the whole
    And we ought to notice the expression, when it is said that the
spirit of Zerubbabel and of all the people was stirred up. For much
sloth, we know, prevailed, especially among the multitude. But as to
Zerubbabel and Joshua, they were, as we have said, already willing,
but delayed until the coldness under which they laboured was
reproved. But the Prophet here simply means, that they became thus
obedient through the hidden impulse of God, and also that they were
made firm in their purpose. God does not form new souls in us, when
he draws us to his service; but changes what is wrong in us: for we
should never be attentive to his word, were he not to open our ears;
and there would be no inclination to obey, were he not to turn our
hearts; in a word, both will and effort would immediately fail in
us, were he not to add his gift of perseverance. Let us, then, know
that Haggai's labours produced fruits, because the Lord effectually
touched the hearts of the people; for we indeed know that it is his
special gift, that the elect are made disciples, according to that
declaration, 'No one comes to me, except my Father draw him.' (John
6: 24.) It is therefore said that they came and did the work in the
house of Jehovah.
    We may also hence learn, that no one is fit to offer sacrifices
to God, or to do any other service, but he who has been moulded by
the hidden operation of the Spirit. Willingly, indeed, we offer
ourselves and our all to God, and build his temple; but whence is
this voluntary action, except that the Lord subdues us, and thus
renders us teachable and obedient? It is afterwards added -

Haggai 1:15
In the four and twentieth day of the sixth month, in the second year
of Darius the king.
    The Prophet mentions even the time when they commenced the
building of the temple. Three-and-twenty days interposed between the
first message and the beginning of the work. It hence appears how
ignorant he was who divided the chapters, having begun the second
chapter at this verse, where the Prophet shows, as it were by his
finger, how much was the distance between the day in which he began
to exhort the people, and the success of which he speaks. He then
simply tells us here when the Temple began to be built - that is, in
the second year of Darius the king, and in the twenty-fourth day of
the sixth month. He had previously said that a message was given to
him in the second year of Darius the king, and in the sixth month,
and on the first day. Then from that day to the twenty-fourth the
people delayed; not that they disregarded the command of the
Prophet, but because it was not so easy a thing to persuade them
all, that they might unanimously undertake the work. Though then the
promptitude of the people is commended, we must yet observe that
there was some mixture of weakness; for the effect of the doctrine
did not appear till the twenty-fourth day. It afterwards follows -
Chapter 2

Haggai 2:1-5
1 In the seventh [month], in the one and twentieth [day] of the
month, came the word of the LORD by the prophet Haggai, saying,
2 Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah,
and to Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, and to the
residue of the people, saying,
3 Who [is] left among you that saw this house in her first glory?
and how do ye see it now? [is it] not in your eyes in comparison of
it as nothing?
4 Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, saith the LORD; and be strong, O
Joshua, son of Josedech, the high priest; and be strong, all ye
people of the land, saith the LORD, and work: for I [am] with you,
saith the LORD of hosts:
5 [According to] the word that I covenanted with you when ye came
out of Egypt, so my spirit remaineth among you: fear ye not.
    The Prophet now states another reason why he had been sent by
God, in order that he might obviate a temptation which might have
hindered the work that was begun. We have seen that they were all
stirred up by the celestial spirit to undertake the building of the
Temple. But as Satan, by his many arts, attempts to turn back the
godly from their course, so he had devised a reason by which the
desire of the people might have been checked. Inasmuch as the old
people, who had seen the splendour of the former temple, considered
this temple no better than a cottage, all their zeal evaporated;
for, as we have said, without a promise there will continue in men
no ardour, no perseverance. Now we know what had been predicted by
Ezekiel, and what all the other Prophets had testified, especially
Isaiah, who had spoken highly of the excellency of the Church, and
shown that it was to be superior to its ancient state. (Isaiah 33:
21.) Besides, Ezekiel describes the form of the Temple, and states
its dimensions. (Ezek. 41: 1.) As then the faithful had learnt from
these prophecies that the new Temple would be more splendid than the
ancient, they were in danger, not only of becoming cold in the
business, but also of being wholly discouraged, when they perceived
that the new Temple in no respect reached the excellency and
grandeur of the ancient Temple. And these things are described at
large by Josephus.
    But we may easily conclude, from the words of the Prophet, that
there was then a danger lest they should lay aside the work they had
begun, except they were encouraged by a new exhortation. And he says
that this happened in the seventh month, and on the first day of the
    Here arises a question, How was it that they so soon compared
the new with the old building. Seven or eight days had passed since
the work was begun: nothing, doubtless, could have been then
constructed, which might have afforded a ground of comparison. It
seems then strange, that the Prophet had been so soon sent to them.
An answer to this will be easily found, if we bear in mind. that
what I have stated at the beginning of the first chapter, that the
foundations of the Temple had been previously laid, but that there
had been a long interruption: for the people had turned to their own
private concerns, and all had become so devoted to their own
advantages, that they neglected the building of the Temple. For it
is wholly a false notion, that the people had returned from exile
before the appointed time, and it has been sufficiently refuted by
clear proofs; for scripture expressly declares, that both Cyrus and
Darius had been led by a divine impulse to allow the return of the
people. Hence, when the Jews returned to their country, they
immediately began to build the Temple; but afterwards, as I have
said, either avarice, or too anxious a desire for their own private
benefit, laid hold on their minds. As then the building of the
Temple had been for some time neglected, they were again encouraged,
as our Prophet has shown to us. They had now hardly applied their
hands to the work, when, through the artifice of Satan, such
suggestions as these crept in - "What are ye doing, ye miserable
men! Ye wish to build a Temple to your God; but what sort of Temple
will it be? Certainly it will not be that which all the Prophets
have celebrated. For what do we read in Isaiah, Jeremiah, and
Ezekiel? Have not all these testified that the Temple which would be
rebuilt after our return from Babylonian exile would be more
splendid than the other? But we now build a shed. Surely this is
done without authority. We do not then fight under the guidance of
God; and it would be better for us to leave off the work; for our
service cannot be approved of God, except it be founded on his Word.
And we see how far this Temple comes short of what God has
    We now hence learn, that it was not without reason that Haggai
was sent on the eighth day to recover the people from their
indifference. And hence also we may learn how necessary it is for us
to be constantly stimulated; for Satan can easily find out a
thousand impediments, by which he may turn us aside from the right
course, except God often repeats his exhortations to keep us awake.
Eight days only have elapsed, and the people would have ceased from
their work, had not Haggai been sent to encourage them again.
    Now the cause of this cessation, which the Prophet designed to
obviate and to remove, ought to be especially noticed. The people
had before ceased to work, because they were immoderately devoted to
their own interest, which was a proof of base ingratitude and of
profane impiety: for those who had no care for building the Temple
were most ungrateful to God; and then their impiety was intolerable,
inasmuch as they sought boarded houses to dwell in, being not
content with decent houses without having them adorned, while the
Temple was left, as it were, a wilderness. But the cause was
different, when Haggai was sent the second time; for their
indifference then arose from a good principle and a genuine feeling
of religion. But we hence see what a subtle contriver Satan is, who
not only draws us away openly from God's service, but insinuates
himself in a clandestine manner, so as to turn us aside, under the
cover of zeal, from the course of our vocation. How was it that the
people became negligent after they had begun the work? even because
it grieved the old men to see the glory of the second, so far
inferior to the first Temple. For though the people animated
themselves by the sound of trumpets, yet the old among them drowned
the sound by their lamentations. Whence was this? even because they
saw, as I have said, that this Temple was in no way equal to the
ancient one; and hence they thought that God was not as yet
reconciled to them. Had they said, that so great an expense was not
necessary, that God did not require much money to be laid out, their
impiety should have been openly manifested; but when they especially
wished that the splendour of the Temple would be such, as might
surely prove that the restoration of the Church was come, such as
had been promised by all the Prophets, we doubtless perceive their
pious feeling.
    But we are thus reminded, that we ought always to beware of the
intrigues of Satan, when they appear under the cover of truth. When,
therefore, our minds are disposed to piety, Satan is ever to be
feared, lest he should stealthily suggest to us what may turn us
aside from our duty; for we see that some leave the Church because
they require in it the highest perfection. They are indignant at
vices which they deem intolerable, when they cannot be corrected:
and thus, under the pretext of zeal, they separate themselves and
seek to form for themselves a new world, in which there is to be a
perfect Church; and they lay hold on those passages in which the
Holy Spirit recommends purity to the Church, as when Paul says, that
it was purchased by Christ, that it might be without spot or
wrinkle. As then these are inflamed with a zeal so rigid that they
depart from God himself and violate the unity of the Church; so also
there are many proud men who despise the Church of God, because it
shines not forth among them in great pomp; and they think that God
does not dwell in the midst of us, because we are obscure and of no
great importance, and also because they regard our few number with
    In all these there is some appearance of piety. How so? Because
they would have God to be reverenced, so that they would have the
whole world to be filled with the fear of his majesty; or they would
have much wealth to be gathered, so that sumptuous offerings might
be made. But, as I have already said, Satan thus cunningly
insinuates himself; and hence we ought to fear his intrigues, lest,
under plausible pretences, he should dazzle our eyes. But the best
way of caution is to regard what God commands, and so to rely on his
promises as to proceed steadily in our course, though the
accomplishment of the promises does not immediately correspond with
our desires; for God designedly keeps us in suspense in order to try
our faith. Though then he may not as yet fulfil what he has
promised, let it yet be our course to attempt nothing rashly, while
we are obeying his command. It will then be our chief wisdom, by
which we may escape all the crafts of Satan, simply to obey God's
word, and to exercise our hope so as patiently to wait the
seasonable time, when he will fulfil what he now promises.
Grant, Almighty God, that as we are not only alienated in mind from
thee, but also often relapse after having been once stirred up by
thee, either into perverseness, or into our own vanity, or are led
astray by various things, so that nothing is more difficult than to
pursue our course until we reach the end of our race, - O grant that
we may not confide in our own strength, nor claim for ourselves more
than what is right, but, with our hearts raised above, depend on
thee alone, and constantly call on thee to supply us with new
strength, and so to confirm us that we may persevere to the end in
the discharge of our duty, until we shall at length attain the true
and perfect form of that temple which thou commandest us to build,
in which thy perfect glory shines forth, and into which we are to be
transformed by Christ our Lord. Amen.

Lecture One Hundred and Thirty-first.
    The Prophet, after having declared why it was necessary to add
new stimulants, now exhorts Zerubbabel and Joshua, and also the
people, to be courageous, and thus to proceed with the work. And he
again repeats what he had said, that the Lord was with them; "I am
with you", he says. Now this one thing is enough for us, that is,
when God declares that he is with us; for his aid, we know, is
stronger than the whole world, however Satan may on every side
attempt to resist us.
    He also adds, that his Spirit would be in the midst of them;
and then he says, that there was no reason for them to fear. By his
Spirit God means the power by which he strengthened their minds,
that they might not give way to their trials, or, that fear might
not hinder them. And what is particular is joined to what is
general; for God is present with his own in various ways: but he
especially shows, that he is present when, by his Spirit, he
confirms weak minds. He then bids them all to be of a courageous
mind. This is one thing. But he also shows whence this courage
proceeded; for he sustained them by his Spirit when they were
growing faint, or when they were not able to resist fears. The
Prophet reminds them by these words, that courage was to be sought
from God.
    We hence learn that what belongs to our calling and duty is not
required from us as though we were able to perform everything; but
when the Lord, according to his own right, commands, he offers the
help of his Spirit; and thus we ought to connect the promise of
grace with the precept, of which foolish men take no notice, who
deduce free will from what is commanded: for they thus reason - that
it is in vain to require from us what is above our ability, and that
as God requires us to form our life according to the rule of the
highest perfection, it is therefore in our power to perform the
highest justice. But the Prophet here, in the first place, exhorts
Joshua and Zerubbabel, and the whole people, to be courageous, and
then, he immediately adds, that the Spirit of God would be in the
midst of them; as though he had said, that there was no reason for
them to despond, though they had not sufficient strength in
themselves; for courage was to be sought from the Spirit of God, who
would dwell among them. In short, the Prophet teaches us that the
faithful are so to strive as not to arrogate anything to themselves,
but to offer themselves to be ruled by the Lord, that he may supply
them with weapons as well as with strength, and thus conquer in
them; for though the victory is ascribed to us it is yet certain
that God conquers in us.
    He then adds, "According to the word"; for so I render the
particle "'et". They who think that the Jews are here reminded that
it was their duty to obey God, and purely to serve him, and truly to
keep his law, according to what he had commanded them when he
brought them out of the land of Egypt, far depart from the design of
the Prophet; for the Prophet pursues the same subject; and in the
latter clause he confirms what I have just mentioned - that the
Spirit of God would be in the midst of them. He therefore shows that
he promises nothing new, but what God had formerly engaged to give
to their fathers. If any one prefers taking the particle "'et" in an
explicative sense, I do not object; for the meaning would be the
same - that this is the word which he had promised. The object of
the Prophet is by no means doubtful; for he means to teach us that
God is faithful and constant in his promises, and that the Jews
would find this to be the case, for he would perform what he had
formerly promised to their fathers. "The word, he says, which I had
covenanted with you when I brought you out of Egypt". For the
Prophets were wont to remind the faithful of the ancient covenant,
that they might gain more credit to their special prophecies. We
indeed know that whatever God had promised to the Jews, was founded
on their first adoption. When, therefore, the Prophets brought
forward the ancient covenant, it was the same as though they led the
Jews back to the fountain itself; for the promises, which now and
then occurred, were like streams which flowed from the first spring,
even their gratuitous covenant.
    We now then see why an express mention is made of the ancient
compact which God had made with the chosen people at their departure
out of Egypt.
    It must also be observed, that God became then the Redeemer of
his people, in order to be their eternal Father, and thus to be the
perpetual guardian of their safety. Hence the design of what the
Prophet says is to show that their fathers were not formerly
redeemed, that their children might reject God, but that he might
continue his favour to his people to the end. But the ultimate issue
is to be found in Christ, that is, the full accomplishment; for God
does not cease to show kindness in him to his chosen people, but
performs much more fully and abundantly what he had previously
exhibited under types and shadows. For whatever he conferred on his
ancient Church, was, as it were, a prelude of his vast bounty, which
was at length made known by the coming of Christ.
    We now clearly apprehend what the Prophet meant: For he
upbraided the Jews for their stupidity, because they did not
consider that their fathers were formerly delivered from Egypt, that
God might defend them to the end. Hence he bids them maturely to
examine the design and character of the covenant which God made at
their departure from Egypt; for he entered into covenant with them,
that he might be their Redeemer, and confer on them the fulness of
all blessings. Since it is so, he says, the time is now come when
God will perform what he then promised to your fathers; and whatever
faithfulness ye have hitherto found in God, ought to be applied for
this end - that ye may feel assured that ye have been now restored
to your country, in order that he might re-establish his Church, and
that ye might not continue in that low condition, which now
depresses your minds. As then ye ought to look for that fulness of
happiness which God formerly promised, either his covenant is void
and he unfaithful, or ye ought with cheerfulness and alacrity to
proceed with the work. It follows -

Haggai 2:6-9
6 For thus saith the LORD of hosts; Yet once, it [is] a little
while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and
the dry [land];
7 And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall
come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the LORD of
8 The silver [is] mine, and the gold [is] mine, saith the LORD of
9 The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the
former, saith the LORD of hosts: and in this place will I give
peace, saith the LORD of hosts.
    Here the Prophet expresses more clearly, and confirms more
fully, what I have said - that God would in time bring help to the
miserable Jews, because he would not disappoint the assurance given
to the fathers. This declaration, then, depends on the covenant
before mentioned; and hence the causative particle is used, For thus
saith Jehovah of hosts, as yet a small one it is, or, yet shortly, I
will fill this house with glory. The expression "a small thing,"
most interpreters aptly to time. Yet there are those who think the
subject itself is denoted. The more received opinion is, that it
means a small duration, a short time, because God would soon make a
change for the better. "Though then there does not as yet appear the
accomplishment of the promises, by which ye have hitherto supported
your faith and your hope, yet after a short time God will really
prove that he has spoken nothing falsely to you."
    There are yet some, as I have said, who think that the matter
itself is denoted by the Prophet, even that the Temple did not yet
appear in splendour before the eyes of men, a small one it is, that
is, "Ye see not indeed a building such as that was, before the
Assyrians and the Chaldeans took possession of the city; but let not
your eyes remain fixed on the appearance of this Temple." Let then
this small one as yet pass by; but in a short time this house will
be filled with glory.
    With regard to the main object, it was the Prophet's design to
strengthen the minds of the godly, that they might not think that
the power of God was inefficient, though he had not as yet performed
what they had hoped. In short, they were not to judge by present
appearances of what had been previously said of their redemption. We
said yesterday that the minds of the godly were heavily depressed,
because the Prophets had spoken in high terms of the Temple as well
as of the kingdom: the kingdom was as yet nothing; and the temple
was more like a shed than what might have been compared in glory
with the former Temple. It was hence necessary for the Prophet to
meet this objection; and this is the reason why he bids them to
overlook the present appearance, and to think of the glory which was
yet hidden. As yet, he says, it is a small one; that is, "There is
no reason for you to despair, though the grandeur of the Temple does
not as yet appear to be so great as you have conceived; but, on the
contrary, let your minds pass over to that restoration which is
still far distant. As yet then a small one it is; and I will move
the heavens and the earth.
    In a word, God here bids them to exercise patience, until he
should put forth the ineffable power of his hand to restore fully
his Church; and this is what is meant by the shaking of the heaven
and the earth.
    But this is a remarkable passage. The Jews indeed, who are very
absurd in everything connected with the kingdom of Christ, pervert
what is here said by the Prophet, and even reduce it to nothing. But
the Apostle in Heb. 12 reminds us of what God means here. For this
passage contains an implied contrast between the law and the gospel,
between redemption, just mentioned here, and that which was to be
expected, and was at length made known by the coming of Christ. God,
then, when he redeemed his people from Egypt, as well as from
Babylon, moved the earth: but the Prophet announces here something
greater - that God would shake the heaven and the earth. But that
the meaning of the Prophet may appear more evident, each sentence
must be examined in order.
    He says first, this once, shortly. I am inclined to apply this
to time, that I may not depart from what is commonly received. But
there is no reason for us to contend on the subject, because it
makes little or no difference as to the main point. For we have said
that what the Prophet had in view was to show that the Jews were not
to fix their eyes and their minds on the appearance of the Temple at
the time: "Allow," he says, "and give place to hope, because your
present state shall not long remain; for the Lord will shake the
heaven and the earth; think then of God's power, how great it is;
does he not by his providence rule both the earth and the heaven?
And ho will shake all things above and below, rather than not to
restore his Church; he will rather change the appearance of the
whole world, than that redemption should not be fully accomplished.
Be not then unwilling to be satisfied with these preludes, but know
what God's power can do: for though it may be necessary to throw the
heaven and the earth into confusions, yet this shall be done, rather
than that your enemies should prevent that full restoration, of
which the Prophets have so often spoken." But the Apostle very
justly says, that the gospel is here set in contrast with the law;
for God exhibited his wonderful power, when the law was promulgated
on mount Sinai; but a fuller power shone forth at the coming of
Christ, for then the heaven, as well as the earth, was shaken. It is
not, then, without reason that the Apostle concludes that God speaks
now to us from heaven, for his majesty appears more splendid in the
gospel than formerly in the law: and hence we are less excusable, if
we despise him now speaking in the person of his only begotten Son,
and thus speaking to show to us that the whole world is subject to
    He then adds, "I will move all the nations, and they shall
come". After having mentioned the heaven and the earth, he now shows
that he would arrest the attention of all mortals, so as to turn
them according to his will, in any way it may please him: Come, he
says, shall all nations - How? because I shall shake them. Here
again the Prophet teaches us that men come not to Christ except
through the wonderful agency of God. He might have spoken more
simply, "I will lead all nations," as it is said elsewhere; but his
purpose was to express something more, even that the impulse by
which God moves his elect to betake themselves to the fold of Christ
is supernatural. Shaking seems a forcible act. Lest men, then,
should obscure the power of God, by which they are roused that they
may obey Christ, and submit to his authority, it is here by the
Prophet expressed by this term, in order that they might understand
that the Lord does not work in an usual or common manner, when they
are thus changed.
    But it must be also observed, that men are thus powerfully, and
in an extraordinary or supernatural manner influenced, so that they
follow spontaneously at the same time. The operation of God is then
twofold; for it is first necessary to shake men, that they may
unlearn their whole character, that is, that forgetting their former
nature, they may willingly receive the yoke of Christ. We indeed
know how great is our perverseness, and how unnameable we are, until
God subdues us by his Spirit. There is need in such a case of a
violent shaking. But we are not forced to obey Christ, as lions and
wild beasts are, who indeed yield, but still retain their inward
ferocity, and roar, though led in chains and subdued by scourges and
beatings. We are not, then, so shaken, that our inward rebellion
remains in us; but we are shaken, so that our disposition is
changed, and we receive willingly the yoke of Christ. This is the
reason why the Prophet says, "I will shake all nations, and they
shall come"; that is, there will be indeed a wonderful conversion,
when the nations who previously despised God, and regarded true
religion and piety with the utmost hatred, shall habituate
themselves to the ruling power of God: and they shall come, because
they shall be so drawn by his hidden influence, that the obedience
they shall render will be voluntary. We now perceive the meaning of
the Prophet.
    He afterwards adds, "The desire of all nations". This admits of
two explanations. The first is, that nations shall come and bring
with them everything that is precious, in order to consecrate it to
the service of God; for the Hebrews call whatever is valuable a
desire; so that under this term they include all riches, honours,
pleasures, and everything of this kind. Hence some render the
passage thus, "I will shake all nations, and come shall the desire
of all nations." As there is a change of number; others will have
"beth", or "mem", to be understood, "They shall come with what they
desire;" that is, the nations shall not come empty, but shall gather
all their treasures to be a holy oblation to God. But we may
understand what he says of Christ, Come shall the desire of all
nations, and I will fill this house with glory. We indeed know that
Christ was the expectation of the whole world, according to what is
said by Isaiah. And it may be properly said, that when the desire of
all nations shall come, that is, when Christ shall be manifested, in
whom the wishes of all ought to centre, the glory of the second
Temple shall then be illustrious; but as it immediately follows,
"Mine is the silver, and mine is the gold", the more simple meaning
is that which I first stated - that the nations would come, bringing
with them all their riches, that they might offer themselves and all
their possessions as a sacrifice to God.
    It is, then, better to read what follows as an explanation,
"Mine is the silver, mine is the gold, saith Jehovah"; that is, "I
have not through want of money deferred hitherto the complete
building of the Temple; for what can hinder me from amassing gold
and silver from all quarters? Should it so please me, I could in a
short time build a Temple by all the wealth of the world. Is it not
indeed in my power to create mountains of gold and silver, by which
I might erect for myself a Temple? Ye hence see that wealth is not
wanting to me to build the Temple which I have promised; but the
time is not arrived. Therefore they who believe the preceding
predictions, ought to wait and to look forward, until the suitable
time shall come." This is the import of the passage.
    He at length declares that the glory of the second temple would
be greater than that of the first, and that there would be peace in
that place. As to the words there is nothing obscure; but we ought
especially to attend to what is said.
    It must, indeed, be first observed, that what is said here of
the future glory of the Temple is to be applied to the excellency of
those spiritual blessings which appeared when Christ was revealed,
and are still conspicuous to us through faith; for ungodly men are
so blind that they see them not. And this we must bear in mind, lest
we dream like some gross interpreters, who think that what is here
said was in part fulfilled when Herod reconstructed the Temple. For
though that was a sumptuous building, yet there is no doubt but that
it was an attempt of the Devil to delude the Jews, that they might
cease to hope for Christ. Such was also, probably, the craft of
Herod. We indeed know that he was only a half-Jew. He professed
himself to be one of Abraham's children; but he accommodated his
habits, we know, to those of the Jews, oddly for his own advantage.
That they might not look for Christ, this delusive and empty
spectacle was presented to them, so as almost to astound them.
Though this, however, may not have entered into the mind of Herod,
it is yet certain that the Devil's design was to present to the Jews
this deceptive shade, that they might not raise up their thoughts to
look for the coming of Christ, as the time was then near at hand.
    God might, indeed, immediately at the beginning have caused a
magnificent temple to be built: as he had allowed a return to the
people, so he might have given them courage, and supplied them with
materials, to render the latter Temple equal or even superior to the
Temple of Solomon. But Cyrus prohibited by an edict the Temple to be
built so high, and he also made its length somewhat smaller: Why was
this done? and why also did Darius do the same, who yet liberally
helped the Jews, and spared no expense in building the Temple? How
was it that both these kings, though guided by the Spirit of God,
did not allow the Temple to be built with the same splendour with
which it had been previously erected? This did not happen without
the wonderful counsel of God; for we know how gross in their notions
the Jews had been, and we see that even the Apostles were entangled
in the same error; for they expected that the kingdom of Christ
would be no other than an earthly one. Had then this Temple been
equally magnificent with the former, and had the kingdom become such
as it had been, the Jews would have acquiesced in these outward
pomps; so that Christ would have been despised, and God's spiritual
favour would have been esteemed as nothing. Since, then, they were
so bent on earthly happiness, it was necessary for them to be
awakened; and the Lord had regard to their weakness, by not allowing
a splendid Temple to be built. But in suffering a counterfeit Temple
to be built by Herod, when the manifestation of Christ was nigh, he
manifested his vengeance by punishing their ingratitude, rather than
his favour; and I call it counterfeit, because its splendour was
never approved by God. Though Herod spent great treasures on that
building, he yet profaned rather than adorned the Temple. Foolishly,
then, do some commemorate what Helena, queen of Adiabenians, had
laid out, and think that thus a credit is in some measure secured to
this prophecy. But it was on the contrary Satan who attempted to
deceive by such impostures and crafts, that he might draw away the
minds of the godly from the beauty of the spiritual Temple.
    But why does the prophet mention gold and silver? He did this
in conformity with what was usual and common; for whenever the
Prophets speak of the kingdom of Christ, they delineate or describe
its splendour in figurative terms, suitable to their own age. When
Isaiah foretells the restoration of the Church, he declares that the
Church would be all gold and silver, and whatever glittered with
precious stones; and in ch. 60 he especially sets forth the
magnificence of the Temple, as though nations from all parts were to
bring for sacrifice all their precious things. But Isaiah speaks
figuratively, as all the other Prophets do. So then what we read of
gold and of silver ought to be so explained as to be applied
mystically to the kingdom of Christ; as we have already observed
respecting Mal. 1: 11 - 'They shall offer to me, saith the Lord,
pure sacrifices from the rising to the setting of the sun.' What are
these sacrifices? Are heifers yet to be offered, or lambs, or other
animals? By no means; but we must regard the spiritual character of
the priesthood; for as the gold of which the Prophet now speaks, and
the silver, ought to be taken in a spiritual sense; for since Christ
has appeared in the world, it is not God's will to be served with
gold and silver vessels; so also there is no altar on which victims
are to be sacrificed, and no candlestick; in a word, all the symbols
of the law have ceased. It hence follows that the Prophet speaks of
the spiritual ornaments of the Temple. And thus we perceive how the
glory of the second Temple is to be greater than that of the first.
    It then follows, that God "would give peace in this place;" as
though he had said that it would be well with the Jews if they only
waited patiently for the complete fulfilment of redemption. But it
must be observed, that this peace was not so evident to them that
they could enjoy it according to the perception of the flesh; but it
was that kind of peace of which Paul speaks, and which, he says,
exceeds all understanding (Phil. 4: 7.) In short, the people could
not have comprehended what the Prophet teaches here respecting the
future splendour of the Temple, except they leaped over all the
obstacles which seemed to obstruct the progress of complete
redemption; and so it was ever necessary for them to have recourse
to this truth - "yet a little while"; as though he said that they
were patiently to endure while God was exercising their faith: but
that the time would come, and that shortly, when the Lord would fill
that house with glory that is, when Christ would bring witch him all
fulness of glory; for though they were to gather the treasures of a
thousand worlds into one mass, such a glory would yet be
corruptible; but when God the Father appeared in the person of his
own Son, he then glorified indeed his Temple; and his majesty shone
forth so much that there was nothing wanting to a complete
    Grant, Almighty God, that since we are by nature extremely
prone to superstition, we may carefully consider what is the true
and right way of serving thee, such as thou dost desire and approve,
even that we offer ourselves spiritually to thee, and seek no other
altar but Christ, and relying on no other priest, hope to be
acceptable and devoted to thee, that he may imbue us with the Spirit
which has been fully poured on him, so that we may from the heart
devote ourselves to thee, and thus proceed patiently in our course,
that with minds raised upwards we may ever go on towards that glory
which is as yet hid under hope, until it shall at length be
manifested in due time, when thine only-begotten Son shall appear
with the elect angels for our final redemption. Amen.
Lecture one hundred and Thirty-second.

Haggai 2:10-14
10 In the four and twentieth day of the ninth month, in the second
year of Darius, came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet,
11 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Ask now the priests concerning the
law, saying,
12 If one bear holy flesh in the skirt of his garment, and with his
skirt do touch bread, or pottage, or wine, or oil, or any meat,
shall it be holy? And the priests answered and said, No.
13 Then said Haggai, If one that is unclean by a dead body touch any
of these, shall it be unclean? And the priests answered and said, It
shall be unclean.
14 Then answered Haggai, and said, So is this people, and so is this
nation before me, saith the LORD; and so is every work of their
hands; and that which they offer there is unclean.

    Though interpreters seem to perceive the meaning of the
Prophet, yet no one really and clearly expresses what he means and
intends to teach us: nay, they adduce nothing but what is jejune and
frigid; for they refer all these things to this point, - that
sacrifices were not acceptable to God before the people had begun to
build the Temple, but that from that time they were pleasing to God,
because the people, in offering sacrifices in a waste place, proved
by such negligence that they disregarded the command of God: but
when their hands were applied to the work, God was appeased, and
thus he began to accept their sacrifices which before he had
rejected. This is, indeed, a part of what is meant, but not the
whole; and the Prophet's main object seems to me to be wholly
different. He has been hitherto exhorting the people to build the
Temple; he now exhorts them to build from a pure motive, and not to
think that they had done everything when the Temple assumed a fine
appearance before the eyes of men, for God required something else.
Hence, I have no doubt but that the Prophet intended here to raise
up the minds of the people to the spiritual worship of God.
    It was, indeed, necessary diligently to build the Temple, but
the end was also to be regarded; for God never cared for external
ceremonies; nor was he delighted with that building as men are with
their splendid houses. As the Jews absurdly ascribed these gross
feelings to God, the Prophet here shows why so strict a command had
been given as to the building of the Temple; and the reason was, -
that God might be worshipped in a pure and holy manner.
    I will repeat again what I have said, that the explanation may
be more familiar to you. When the people neglected the building of
the Temple, they manifested their in-piety and their contempt of
Divine worship: for what was the cause of their delay and tardiness,
except that each of them regarded nothing but just his own private
interest? Now, when all of them strenuously undertook the work of
building the Temple, their industry was indeed laudable, for it was
a proof of their piety: but when the people thought that God
required nothing more than a splendid Temple, it was manifest
superstition: for the worship of God, we know, is corrupted when it
is confined to external things; for, in this manner God is
transformed into a nature not his own: as he is a Spirit, so he must
be spiritually worshipped by us. Whosoever then obtrudes on him only
external pomps in order to pacify him, most childishly trifles with
him. This second part, in my view, is what the Prophet now
undertakes to handle. From the seventh to the ninth month they had
been diligently engaged in the work which the Lord had commanded
them to do: but men, as we know, busy themselves with external
things and neglect spiritual worship; hence it was necessary to join
what is said here, that the people might understand, that it was not
enough to satisfy God, though they spared neither expense nor labour
in building the Temple; but that something greater was required,
even to worship God in it in a pure and holy manner. This is the
design of the whole passage. But we must first examine the Prophet's
words, and then it will be easier to gather the whole import of his
    He says then that he was ordered by God, on the twenty fourth
day of the month, in the same year, in the second year of Darius, to
ask the priests concerning the law. Haggai is not bid to inquire
respecting the whole law, but only that the priests should answer a
question according to the Word of God, or the doctrine of the law
according to what is commonly said - "What is law, is the question:"
for it was not allowed to the priests to allege anything they
pleased indiscriminately; but they were only interpreters of the
law. This is the reason why God bids his Prophet to inquire what the
law of Moses defines as to the ceremony mentioned here. And the
design was, that the people, being convinced as to the legal
ceremonies, might not contend nor glamour, but acknowledge that all
socks are condemned as sinful which flow not from a pure and sincere
    Haggai asks first, If a man takes holy flesh - that is, some
part of the sacrifice, - if any one takes and carries it in a sleeve
or skirt, that is, in any part of his vestment, and then touches
bread, or oil, or any eatable thing, will anything connected with
that holy flesh be sanctified by mere touch? The priests answer, No.
Here also interpreters grossly mistake: for they take "sanctified"
as meaning "polluted," altogether falsely; for there is here a
twofold question proposed. Whether holy flesh sanctifies anything it
may touch? and then, whether an impure and a polluted man
contaminates whatever he may touch? As to the first question, the
priests wisely and truly answer, that there is no such efficacy in
sacrifices, as that they can sanctify what they may touch: and this
is true. The second definition is also most proper, that whatever is
touched by an unclean man is polluted, as the law everywhere
    The Prophet then accommodates this to his present case, "So",
he says, "is this people, and this nation, and the work of their
hands". For as long as they are polluted, however they may spend
money in sacrifices, and greatly weary themselves in worshipping
God, not only is their labour vain, but whatever they offer is
polluted, and is an abomination only. We now understand the words of
the Prophet, and so we may now consider the subject.
    But before I speak generally of the present subject, I shall
first notice what the Prophet says here, that he inquired respecting
the law; for it was not allowed to the priests to allege anything
they pleased. We indeed know, that they had advanced into such
licentiousness, as arbitrarily to demand what God had never
commanded, and also to forbid the people what was lawful, the use of
which had been permitted by God's law. But Haggai does not here
allow such a liberty to the priests; he does not ask what they
thought, but what was required by the law of the Lord. And this is
worthy of being noticed; for it is a pernicious evil to exercise an
arbitrary control over the conscience. And yet the devil has ever
corrupted the worship of God, and the whole system of religion,
under the pretence of extolling the authority of the Church. It is
indeed true, that the sacerdotal office was very honourable and
worthy of respect; but we must ever take heed lest men assume too
much, and lest what is thoughtlessly conceded to them should deprive
God of what belongs to him; as the case is, we know, under the
Papacy. When the Pope seeks to show that all his commands ought
without any dispute to be obeyed, he quotes what is found in Deut.
17: 8 - 'If a question arises about the law, the high priest shall
judge between what is sacred and profane.' This is indeed true; but
was it permitted to the high priest to disregard God's law, and
foolishly to allege this or that according to his own judgement?
Nay, the priest was only an interpreter of the law. Whenever then
God bids those pastors to be heard whom he sets over his Church, his
will is, as it has been before stated, that he himself should be
heard through their mouth. In short, whatever authority is exercised
in the Church ought to be subjected to this rule - that God's law is
to retain its own pre-eminence, and that men blend nothing of their
own, but only define what is right according to the Word of the
Lord. Now this is by the way; I come now to the main point.
    The priests answered, that neither flesh, nor oil, nor wine,
was sanctified by touching a piece or part of a sacrifice. Why?
because a sacrifice sanctifies not things unclean, except by way of
expiation; for this, we know, was the design of sacrifices - that
men who were polluted might reconcile themselves to God. A right
answer was then given by the priests, that unclean flesh or unclean
oil is not sanctified by the touch of holy flesh. Why? because the
flesh itself was not dedicated to God for this end - to purify what
was unclean by a mere touch. Yet, on the other hand, it is most
true, that when a man was unclean he polluted whatever he touched.
It is commonly thought, that he is said to be unclean in his soul
who had defiled himself by touching a corpse; but I differ from
this. The word soul is often taken in the law for man himself. -
'The soul that eats of what died of itself is polluted; the soul
that touches a corpse is polluted.' (Lev. 17: 15.) Hence he is here
said to be polluted in his soul, who had an outward uncleanness, as
we say in French, Pollu en sa personne. Whosoever then is unclean
pollutes by touch only whatever might have been otherwise clean; and
the conclusion sufficiently proves that this is the purport of this
passage. I have said enough of what the design of the Prophet is,
but the subject must be more fully explained.
    We know how heedlessly men are wont to deal with God; for they
trifle with him like children with their puppets. And this
presumption has been condemned, as it is well known, even by
heathens. Hardly a Prophet could have inveighed more severely
against this gross superstition than Persius, who compares
sacrifices, so much thought of by all, to puppets, and shows that
other things are required by God, even
    A well ordered condition and piety of soul,
    and an inward purity of mind,
    and a heart imbued with generous virtue.
    He means then that men ought to be imbued with true holiness,
and that inwardly, so that there should be nothing fictitious or
feigned. He says that they who are such, that is, who have imbibed
the true fear of God, do rightly serve him, thought they may bring
only a crumb of incense, and that others only profane the worship of
God, though they may bring many oxen; for whatever they think avails
to cover their filth is polluted by new and repeated filth. And this
is what has been expressed by heathen authors: another poet says, -
    An impious right hand does not rightly worship the celestials.
    So they spoke according to the common judgement of natural
knowledge. As to the Philosophers, they ever hold this principle -
that no sacrifice is rightly offered to God except the mind be right
and pure. But yet the Philosophers, as well as the Poets, adopted
this false notion, by which Satan beguiled all men, from the least
to the greatest - that God is pacified by ceremonies: hence have
proceeded so many expiations, in which foolish men trusted, and by
which they thought that God would be propitious to them, thought
they obstinately continued daily to procure for themselves new
punishments, and, as it were, avowedly to carry on war with God
    They admit at this day, under the Papacy, this principle that
the true fear of God is necessary, as hypocrisy contaminates all the
works of men; nor will they indeed dare to commend those who seek
feignedly and triflingly to satisfy God, when they are filled with
pride, contempt, and impiety. And yet they will never receive what
the Prophet says here - that men not only lose all their labour, but
also contract new pollution, when they seek to pacify God by their
sacrifices, unaccompanied by inward purity. For whence is that
partial righteousness which the Papists imagine? For they say, that
if one does not keep the whole law, yet obedience in part is
approved by God; and nothing is more common among them than this
expression, partial righteousness. If then an adulterer refrains
from theft, and lays out in alms some of his wealth, they will have
this to be charity, and declare it to be acceptable. Though it
proceeds from an unclean man, it is yet made a covering, which is
deemed sufficient in some way or another to pacify God. Thus the
Papists seek, without exercising any discrimination, to render God
bound to them by their works, though they may be full of all
uncleanness. We hence see that this error has not sprung up today or
yesterday for the first time; but it is inherent in the bones and
marrows of men; for they have ever thought that their services
please God, though they may be unclean themselves.
    Hence this definition must be borne in mind - that works,
however splendid they may appear before our eyes, are of no value or
importance before God, except they flow from a pure heart. Augustine
has very wisely explained this in his fourth book against Julia. He
says, that it would be an absurd thing for the faithful to judge of
works by the outward appearance; but that they ought to be estimated
according to the fountain from which they proceed, and also
according to their design. Now the fountain of works I consider to
be integrity of heart, and the design or end is, when the object of
men is to obey God and to consecrate their life to him. Hence then
we learn the difference between good and evil works, between vices
and virtues, that is, from the inward state of the mind, and from
the object in view. This is the subject of the Prophet in the first
clause; and he drew an answer from the priests, which was wholly
consistent with the law; and it amounted to this, that no work,
however praised and applauded by the world, is valued before God's
tribunal, except it proceeds from a pure heart.
    Now as to the second part, it is no less difficult to convince
men of its truth - that whatever they touch is contaminated, when
they are themselves unclean; and yet this is what God had plainly
made known to the Jews: and the priests hesitated not nor doubted,
but immediately returned an answer, as though the matter was well
known - that an unclean man contaminates whatever thing he touches.
But when we come to apply the subject, men then reject what they had
been clearly taught; nay, what they are forced to confess, until
they see the matter brought home to them, and then they begin to
accuse God of too much rigour: "Why is this, that whatever we touch
is polluted, though we might leave some defilement? Are not our
works still deserving of some praise, as they are good works?" And
hence also is the common saying, That works, which are in their kind
good, are always in a measure meritorious, and though they are
without faith, they yet avail to merit the gift of faith, inasmuch
as they are in themselves praiseworthy, as chastity, liberality,
sobriety, temperance, beneficence, and all alms giving. But God
declares that these virtues are polluted, though men may admire
them, and that they are only abominable filth, except the heart be
really cleansed and purified. Why so? because nothing can flow from
an impure and polluted fountain but what is impure and polluted.
    It is now easy to understand how suitably the Prophet had led
the priests and the whole people to see this difference. For if he
had abruptly said this to them - that no work pleased Cod, except
the doer himself had been cleansed from every defilement, there
would have arisen immediate]y many disputations: "Why will God
reject what is in itself worthy of praise? When one observes
chastity, when another liberally lays out a part of his property,
when a third devotes himself wholly to promote the good of the
public, when magnanimity and firmness shine forth in one, when
another cultivates the liberal arts - are not these such virtues as
deserve some measure of praise!" Thus a great glamour would have
been raised among the people, had not Haggai made this kind of
preface - that according to the law what is unclean is not
sanctified by the touch of holy flesh, and also that whatever is
touched by an unclean person is polluted. What the law then
prescribed in its rituals silenced all those clamours, which might
have immediately arisen among the people. Moreover, though
ceremonies have now ceased and are no longer in use, yet what God
has once declared still retains its force - that whatever we touch
is polluted by us, except there be a real purity of heart to
sanctify our works.
    Let us now inquire how our works please God: for no one is ever
found to be pure and perfect, as the most perfect are defiled with
some vices; so that their works are always sprinkled with some spots
and blemishes, and contract some uncleanness from the hidden filth
of their hearts. In answer to this, I say first, that all our works
are corrupt before God and abominable in his sight, for the heart is
naturally corrupt: but when God purifies our hearts by faith, then
our works begin to be approved, and obtain praise before him; for
the heart is cleansed by faith, and purity is diffused over our
works, so that they begin to be pleasing to God. For this reason
Moses says, that Abel pleased God with his sacrifices, "The Lord had
respect to Abel and to his gifts." (Gen. 4: 4.) Had Moses said only,
that the sacrifices of Abel were approved by God, he would have
spoken unadvisedly, or at least obscurely; for he would have been
silent on the main thing. But he begins with the person, as though
he had said, that Abel pleased God, because he worshipped him with
an upright and sincere heart. He afterwards adds, that his
sacrifices were approved, for they proceeded from the true fear of
God and sincere piety. So Paul, when speaking of the real keeping of
the law, says, that the end of the law is love from a pure heart and
faith unfeigned. (1 Tim. 1: 5.) He shows then that no work is deemed
right before God, except it proceeds from that fountain, even faith
unfeigned, which is always connected with an upright and sincere
heart. This is one thing.
    Secondly, we must bear in mind how God purifies our hearts by
faith. There is indeed a twofold purification: He first forms us in
his image, and engraves on us true and real fear, and an obedient
disposition. This purity of the heart diffuses itself over our
works; for when we are imbued with true piety, we have no other
object but to offer ourselves and all we have to God. Far indeed are
they who are hypocrites and profane men from having this feeling;
nay, they are wholly alienated from it: they offer liberally their
own things to God, but they wish to be their own masters; for a
hypocrite will never give up himself as a spiritual sacrifice to
God. We hence see how faith purifies our hearts, and also purifies
our works: for having been regenerated by the Spirit of God, we
offer to him first ourselves and then all that we have. But as this
purgation is never found complete in man, it is therefore necessary
that there should come an aid from gratuitous acceptance. Our hearts
then are purified by faith, because God imputes not to us that
uncleanness which remains, and which defiles our works. As then God
regards with gracious acceptance that purity which is not as yet
perfect, so he causes that its contagion should not reach to our
works. When Abel offered sacrifices to God, he was indeed perfect,
inasmuch as there was nothing feigned or hypocritical in him: but he
was a man, we know, encompassed with infirmity. It was therefore
necessary for his remaining pollution to have been purified by the
grace of Christ. Hence it was that his sacrifices were accepted: for
as he was accepted, so God graciously received whatever proceeded
from him.
    We now then see how men, while in a state of nature, displease
God by their works, and can bring nothing but what is corrupt,
filthy, and abominable. We farther see how the children of God,
after having been renewed by his Spirit, come pure to him and offer
him pure sacrifices: they come pure, because it is their object to
devote themselves to God without any dissimulation; but as this
devotedness is never perfect, God supplies the defect by a
gratuitous imputation, for he embraces them as his servants in the
same manner as though they were entirely formed in all
righteousness. And in the same way he approves of their works, for
all their spots are wiped away, yea, those very spots, which might
justly prevent all favour; were not all uncleanness washed away by
the blood of Christ, and that through faith.
    We hence learn, that there is no ground for any one to deceive
himself with vain delusions, by attempting to please God with great
pomp: for the first thing of which the Prophet treats here is always
required, that is, that a person must be pure in his heart, that
inward purity must precede every work. And though this truth meets
us everywhere in all the Prophets, yet as hypocrisy dazzles our eyes
and blinds all our senses, it ought to be seriously considered by
us; and we ought to notice in an especial manner not only this
passage but other similar passages where the Prophets ridicule the
solicitude of the people, when they busied themselves with
sacrifices and outward observances, and neglected the principal
thing - real purity of heart.
    We must also take notice of what the Prophet says in the last
verse, that so was every work of their hand and whatever they
offered. It seems apparently a hard matter, that the very sacrifices
were condemned as polluted. But it is no wonder that fictitious
modes of worship, by which profane men dishonour God, should be
repudiated by him; for they seek to transform him according to their
own fancy, as though he might be soothed by playthings or such
trifles. It is therefore a most disgraceful mockery when men deal
thus with God, offering him only external ceremonies, and
disregarding his nature: for they make no account of spiritual
worship, and yet think that they please him. We must then, in a
word, make this remark - that the Prophet teaches us here, that it
is not enough for men to show obedience to God, to offer sacrifices,
to spend labour in building the Temple, except these things were
rightly done - and how rightly? by a sincere heart, so there should
be no dissimulation, no duplicity.
    Grant, Almighty God, that inasmuch as we come from our mother's
womb wholly impure and polluted, and afterwards continually contract
so many new defilements, - O grant that we may flee to the fountain,
which alone can cleanse us. And as there is no other way by which we
can be cleansed from all the defilements of the flesh, except we be
sprinkled by the blood of thy only begotten Son, and that by the
hidden power of thy Spirit, and thus renounce all our vices, - O
grant that we may so strive truly and sincerely to devote ourselves
to thee, as daily to renounce more and more all our evil affections,
and to have nothing else as our object, but to submit our minds and
all our affections to thee, by really denying ourselves, and to
exercise ourselves in this strenuous effort as long as we are in
this world, until we attain to that true and perfect purity, which
is laid up for us in thine only-begotten Son, when we shall be fully
united to him, having been transformed into that glory into which he
has been received. Amen.
Lecture One Hundred and Thirty-third.

Haggai 2:15-19
15 And now, I pray you, consider from this day and upward, from
before a stone was laid upon a stone in the temple of the LORD:
16 Since those days were, when one came to an heap of twenty
measures, there were but ten: when one came to the pressfat for to
draw out fifty vessels out of the press, there were but twenty.
17 I smote you with blasting and with mildew and with hail in all
the labours of your hands; yet ye turned not to me, saith the LORD.
18 Consider now from this day and upward, from the four and
twentieth day of the ninth month, even from the day that the
foundation of the LORD'S temple was laid, consider it.
19 Is the seed yet in the barn? yea, as yet the vine, and the fig
tree, and the pomegranate, and the olive tree, hath not brought
forth: from this day will I bless you.
    I am under the necessity of joining all these verses together,
for the Prophet treats of the same thing: and the import of the
whole is this - that the Lord had then openly punished the tardiness
of the people, so that every one might have easily known that they
acted very inconsistently in attending only to their private
concerns, so as to neglect the Temple. The Prophet indeed speaks
here in a homely manner to earthly men, addicted to their own
appetites: had they really become wiser, or made greater progress in
true religion, he might have addressed them differently, and would
have no doubt followed the rule mentioned by Paul, 'We speak wisdom
among those who are perfect.' (1 Cor. 2: 6.) But as they had their
thoughts fixed on meat and drink, and were intent on their private
advantages, the Prophet tells them what they could comprehend that
God was angry with them, and that the proofs of his curse were
evident, as the earth did not produce fruit, and they themselves
were reduced to want. We hence perceive the object of the Prophet:
but I shall run over the words, that the subject may become more
    "Lay it", he says, "on your heart". Here the Prophet indirectly
condemns their insensibility, as they were blind in things quite
manifest; for he does not here direct their thoughts to heaven, nor
announce deep mysteries, but only speaks of food and daily support.
Since God, then, impressed clear marks of his wrath on their common
sustenance, it was an intolerable stupidity in them to disregard
these. And the Prophet often repeats the same thing, in order to
shame the Jews; for their tardiness being so often reproved, ought
to have made them ashamed. Lay it on the heart, he says; that is,
Consider what I am going to say; from this day and heretofore, he
says, before a stone was laid on a stone; that is, from that day
when I began to exhort you to build the Temple, consider what has
happened to this very day.
    Then he adds, Before ye began, he says, to build the Temple,
was it not that every one who came to a heap of twenty measures
found only ten? that is, was it not, that when the husband men
expected that there would be twenty measures in the storehouse or on
the floor, they were disappointed? because God had dried up the
ears, so they yielded not what they used to do; for husband men, by
long experience, can easily conjecture what they may expect when
they see the gathered harvest; but this prospect had disappointed
the husband men. God, then, had in this case given proofs of his
curse. Farther; when any one came to the vat, and expected a large
vintage, had he not also been disappointed? for instead of fifty
casks he found only twenty.
    He afterwards adds, I have smitten you with the east wind: for
"shidafon" is to be taken for a scorching wind; and the east wind
proved injurious to Judea by its dryness. So also "yerakon" is
mildew, or a moist wind, from which mildew proceeds; for we know
that corn, when it has much wet, contracts mildew when the sun emits
its heat. As to the meaning of the Prophet there is no ambiguity,
for he intended to teach them that they were in various ways
visited, that they might clearly perceive that God was displeased
with them. He then mentions the hail: for when famine happens only
from the cold or from the heat, it may be ascribed to chance or to
the stars: but when God employs various scourges, we are then
constrained to acknowledge his wrath, as though he were determined
to awaken us. This is the reason why the Prophet records here
various kinds of judgements. And he says, In every work of your
hands. Some read, "And every work," &c., which is improper; for they
were not smitten in their own bodies, but in the produce of the
earth. Then he adds, And you returned not to me, that is, "During
the whole of that time I effected nothing, while I was so often and
in such various ways chastising you. And yet what good has the
obduracy of your hearts done you? ye have not returned to me."
    Lay it, he says, on your heart from this day, and heretofore,
&c. He repeats what he had said, even from the twenty-fourth day of
the ninth month. We have seen before, that the Prophet was sent on
that day to reprove the people for their sins. Lay it then on your
heart, he says, frame this day, &c. We see how emphatical is this
repetition, because in things evident the Jews were so insensible
that their want and famine could not touch them: and we know that
there is no sharper goad to stimulate men than famine. Since then
the Lord snatched away their food from their mouth, and they
remained inattentive to such a judgement, it was a sure evidence of
extreme stupidity. It is on this account that the Prophet often
declares, that the Jews were extremely insensible; for they did not
consider the judgements of God, which were so manifest. He now
subjoins, Is there yet seed in the barn? Jerome reads, "in the bud;"
and the probable reason why he thus rendered the word was, that he
thought that the clauses would not correspond without giving the
meaning of bud to "megurah"; but, as I think, he was mistaken. The
Hebrews propose what I cannot approve, for some of them read the
sentence as an affirmation, "For there is seed in the barn;" because
they dared not to commit the seed to the ground in their state of
want. And others read it as a question, as though he had said, that
the time of harvest was far off, and that what they had remaining
was so small that it was not enough to support them. But, in my
judgement, the "seed" refers not to what had been gathered, but to
what had been sown. I therefore doubt not but that he speaks of
God's blessing on the harvest which was to come after five months,
to which I shall presently refer. Some, indeed, render the words in
the past tense, as though the Prophet had said, that the Jews had
already experienced how great the curse of God was; but this is a
forced view. The real meaning of the Prophet is this, Is there yet
seed in the barn? that is, "Is the seed, as yet hid in the ground,
    He then adds affirmatively, neither the vine, nor the fig tree,
nor the pomegranate, nor the olive had yet produced any thing; for
it was the ninth month of the year; and the beginning of the year,
we know, was in the month of March. Though then they were nearly in
the midst of winter, they remained uncertain as to what the produce
would be. In the month of November no opinion could be formed, even
by the most skilful, what produce they were to expect. As then they
were still in suspense, the Prophet says, that God's blessing was in
readiness for them. What he had in view was, to show that he brought
a sure message from God; for he speaks not of a vintage the prospect
of which had already appeared, nor of a harvest when the ears had
already made their appearance. As then there was still danger from
the hail, from scorching winds, and also from rains and other things
injurious to fruit and produce of the land, he says, that the
harvest would be most abundant, the vintage large, that, in a word,
the produce of the olive and the fig tree would be most exuberant.
The truth of the prophecy might now be surely known, when God
fulfilled what he had spoken by the mouth of his servant. I now
return to the subject itself
    As I have before observed, the Prophet deals with the Jews here
according to their gross disposition: for he might in a more refined
manner have taught the godly, who were not so entangled with, or
devoted to, earthly concerns. It was then necessary for him to speak
in a manner suitable to the comprehension of the people, as a
skilful teacher who instructs children and those of riper age in a
different manner. And he shows by evidences that the Jews were
unthankful to God, for they neglected the building of the Temple,
and every one was diligently and earnestly engaged in building his
own house. He shows by proofs their conduct, - How? Whence has it
happened, he says, that at one time your fruit has been destroyed by
mildew, at another by heat, and then by the hail, except that the
Lord intended thus to correct your neglect? It then follows, that
you are convicted of ingratitude by these judgements; for you have
neglected God's worship, and only pursued your own private
advantages. This is one thing.
    The latter clause contains a promise; and by it the instruction
given was more confirmed, when the people saw that things suddenly
and unexpectedly took a better turn. They had been for many years
distressed with want of sustenance; but, when fruitfulness of a
sudden followed, did not this change manifest something worthy of
their consideration? especially when it was foretold before it
happened, and before any such thing could have been foreseen by
human conjectures? We see then, that the Prophet dwells on two
things, - he condemns the Jews for their neglect, and proves that
they were impious and ungrateful towards God, for they disregarded
the building of the Temple; and them, in order to animate them and
render them more active in the work they had begun, he sets before
them, as I have said, what had taken place. God had, indeed,
abundantly testified, by various kinds of punishment that he was
displeased with them: but when he now promises that he would deal
differently with them, there hence arises a new and a stronger
    But some one may here raise an objection and say, that these
evidences are not sure or unvaried; since it often happens, that
when people devote themselves faithfully to the service of God they
are pressed down by adverse events; yea, that God very often
designedly tries their faith by withholding from them for a time his
blessing. But the answer to this may be readily given: I indeed
allow that it often happens that those who sincerely and from the
heart serve God, are deprived of earthly blessings, because God
intends to elevate their minds to the hope of eternal reward. God
then designedly withdraws his blessing often from the faithful, that
they may hunger and thirst in this world; as though they lost all
their labour in serving him. But it was not the Prophet's design to
propound here an evidence of an unvarying character, as he counted
it sufficient to convince the Jews by experience, that nothing
prevented them from acknowledging that their avarice displeased God,
except their extreme stupidity. The Prophet then does here reprove
their insensibility; for, while they greatly laboured in enriching
themselves, they did not observe that their labour was in vain,
because God from heaven poured his curse on them. This then might
have been easily known by them had they not hardened themselves in
their vices. And what the Prophet testifies here respecting the
fruitful produce of wine, and corn, and oil, and of other things,
was still, as I have said, a stronger confirmation.
    Now, if any one objects again and says - that this was of no
value, because a servile and mercenary service does not please God:
to this I answer - that God does often by such means stimulate men,
when he sees them to be extremely tardy and slothful, and that he
afterwards leads them by other means to serve him truly and from the
heart. When therefore any one obeys God, only that he may satisfy
his appetite, it is as though one laboured from day to day for the
sake of wages, and then disregards him by whom he has been hired. It
is certain that such a service is counted as nothing before God; but
he would have himself to be generously worshipped by us; and he
loves, as Paul says, a cheerful giver. (2 Cor. 6: 7.) But as men,
for the most part, on account of their ignorance, cannot be led at
first to this generous state of mind, so as to devote themselves
willingly to God, it is necessary to begin by using other means, as
the Prophet does here, who promises earthly and daily sustenance to
the Jews, for he saw that they could not immediately, at the first
step, ascend upwards to heaven; but it was not his purpose to stop
short, until he elevated their minds higher. Let us then know, that
this was only the beginning, that they might learn to fear God and
to expect whatever they wanted from his blessing, and also that they
might shake off their stupor, under which they had previously
laboured. In short, God deals in one way with the rude and ignorant,
who are not yet imbued with true religion; and he deals in another
way with his own disciples, who are instructed in sound doctrine.
When I say that the Prophet acted thus towards the Jews, I speak not
of the whole nation; but I regard what we have observed at the
beginning of this book - that the Jews cared for nothing then but to
build their own houses, and that there was no zeal for religion
among them. As then the recollection of God was nigh buried among
them, the Temple being neglected, and every one's anxiety being
concentrated in building his own house, we hence learn how grossly
earthly their affections were. It is therefore no wonder that the
Prophet treated them in the manner stated here. Let us proceed -

Haggai 2:20-23
20 And again the word of the LORD came unto Haggai in the four and
twentieth day of the month, saying,
21 Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, I will shake the
heavens and the earth;
22 And I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms, and I will destroy
the strength of the kingdoms of the heathen; and I will overthrow
the chariots, and those that ride in them; and the horses and their
riders shall come down, every one by the sword of his brother.
23 In that day, saith the LORD of hosts, will I take thee, O
Zerubbabel, my servant, the son of Shealtiel, saith the LORD, and
will make thee as a signet: for I have chosen thee, saith the LORD
of hosts.
    The Prophet now proceeds still farther; for there is here a
really gratuitous and spiritual promise, by which God affirms that
he will have a care for his people to the end. He does not now speak
of wine and corn, in order to feed the hungry; but he shows that he
would be an eternal Father to that people; for he could not and
would not forget the covenant he made with their fathers. There is
no doubt but he points out Christ in the person of Zerubbabel, as we
shall presently see. So that it is right to distinguish this
prophecy from the last; for God has before shown, that the worship
which the Jews had for a time disregarded was pleasing to him, as a
reward was in readiness, and also that he was offended with the
negligence previously reproved, as he had inflicted manifest
punishment, not once, nor for a short time, but for many years, and
in various ways. What then does follow? In this second prophecy he
addresses Zerubbabel, and promises to be a Saviour to the people
under his authority.
    With regard to these words, some think that a continued act is
signified when he says, "I shake the heavens and the earth;" and
they give this explanation - "That though it belongs to me to shake
the heaven and the earth, and I am wont to subvert kingdoms, yet I
will render firm the sacred kingdom which I have raised among my
people." But this view is very frigid: and we see even from this
chapter what is meant by the shaking of the heaven and of the earth,
of which mention is made. The Apostle also rightly interprets this
passage, when he teaches us, that this prophecy properly belongs to
the kingdom of Christ. (Heb. 12: 26.) There is therefore no doubt,
but that the Prophet means here something special, when he
introduces God as saying, "Behold, I shake the heavens and the
earth." God then does not speak of his ordinary providence, nor
simply claim to himself the government of the heaven and of the
earth, nor teach us that he raises on high the humble and the low,
and also brings down the high and the elevated; but he intimates,
that he has some memorable work in contemplation, which, when done,
would shake men with fear, and make heaven and earth to tremble.
Hence, the Prophet no doubt intended here to lead the Jews to the
hope of that redemption, some prelude of which God had then given
them; but its fulness could not as yet be seen - nay, it was hid
from the view of men: for who could have expected such a renovation
of the world as was effected by the coming of Christ? When the Jews
found themselves exposed to the wrongs of all men, when so small a
number returned, and there was no kingdom and no power, they thought
themselves to have been as it were deceived. Hence the Prophet
affirms here, that there would be a wonderful work of God, which
would shake the heaven and the earth. It is therefore necessary that
this should be applied to Christ; for it was, as it were, a new
creation of the world, when Christ gathered together the things
scattered, as the Apostle says, in the heaven and in the earth.
(Col. 1: 20.) When he reconciled men to God and to angels, when he
conquered the devil and restored life to the dead, when he shone
forth with his own righteousness, then indeed God shook the heaven
and the earth; and he still shakes them at this day, when the gospel
is preached; for he forms anew the children of Adam after his own
image. This spiritual regeneration then is such an evidence of God's
power and grace, that he may justly be said to shake the heaven and
the earth. The import of the passage is, that it behaved the Jews to
form a conception in their minds of something greater than could be
seen by their eyes; for their redemption was not yet completed.
    Hence he subjoins - I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms; I
will destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the nations; and I will
overthrow the chariot and him who sits in it; come down shall the
horses and their riders; every one shall fall by the sword of his
brother. He confirms here the former sentence - that nothing would
be an hindrance that God should not renew his Church. And rightly he
adds this by way of anticipation; for the Jews were surrounded on
all sides by inveterate enemies; they had as many enemies as they
had neighbours; and they were hated even by the whole world. How
then could they emerge into that dignity which was then promised to
them, except God overturned the rest of the world? But the Prophet
here meets this objection, and briefly shows that God would rather
that all the nations should perish, than that his Church should
remain in that dishonourable state. We then see that the Prophet
here means no other thing then that God would overcome all those
impediments, which Satan and the whole world may throw in the way,
when it is his purpose to restore his Church.
    We now perceive the Prophet's designs, and we also perceive the
application of his doctrine. For whenever impediments and
difficulties come in our way, calculated to drive us to despair,
when we think of the restoration of the Church, this prophecy ought
to come to our minds, which shows that it is in God's power, and
that it is his purpose to overturn all the kingdoms of the earth, to
break chariots in pieces, to cast down and lay prostrate all riders,
rather then to allow them to prevent the restoration of his Church.
    But in the last verse the Prophet shows why God would do this -
even that Zerubbabel might prosper together with the whole people.
Hence he says - In that day saith Jehovah, I will take thee,
Zerubbabel, and will set thee as a signet, for I have chosen thee.
As we have before said, God addresses Zerubbabel here, that in his
person he might testify that he would bless the people whom he
intended to gather under that sacred leader; for though Zerubbabel
never had a kingdom, nor ever wore a crown, he was yet of the tribe
of Judah; and God designed that some spark of that kingdom should
exist, which he had raised in the family of David. Since, then,
Zerubbabel was at that time a type of Christ, God declares here that
he would be to him as a signet - that is, that his dignity would be
esteemed by him. This comparison of a signet is found also in other
places. It is said in Jer. 22: 24 - "Though this Coniah were a
signet on my right hand I would pluck him thence." But here God says
that Zerubbabel would be to him a signet - that is, "Thou shalt be
with me in high esteem." For a sealing signet is wont to be
carefully preserved, as kings seek in this way to secure to
themselves the highest authority, so that more trust may be placed
in their seal than in the greatest princes. The meaning, then, of
the similitude is, that Zerubbabel, though despised by the world,
was yet highly esteemed by God. But it is evident that this was
never fulfilled in the person of Zerubbabel. It hence follows that
it is to be applied to Christ. God, in short, shows, that that
people gathered under one head would be accepted by him; for Christ
was at length to rise, as it is evident, from the seed of
    But this reason is to be especially noticed - Because I have
chosen thee. For God does not here ascribe excellencies or merits to
Zerubbabel, when he says that he would hold him in great esteem; but
he attributes this to his own election. If, then, the reason be
asked why God had so much exalted Zerubbabel, and bestowed on him
favours so illustrious, it can be found in nothing else but in the
goodness of God alone. God had made a covenant with David, and
promised that his kingdom would be eternal; hence it was that he
chose Zerubbabel after the people had returned from exile; and this
election was the reason why God exalted Zerubbabel, though his power
at that time was but small. We indeed know that he was exposed to
the contempt of all nations; but God invites here the attention of
the faithful to their election, so that they might hope for more
than what the perception of the flesh could conceive or apprehend;
for what he has decreed cannot be made void; and in the person of
Zerubbabel he had determined to save a chosen people; for from him,
as it has been said, Christ was to come.
    Grant, Almighty God, that as we are still restrained by our
earthly cares, and cannot ascend upward to heaven with so much
readiness and alacrity as we ought - O grant, that since thou
extendest to us daily so liberal a supply for the present life, we
may at least learn that thou art our Father, and that we may not at
the same time fix our thoughts on these perishable things, but learn
to elevate our minds higher, and so make continual advances in thy
spiritual service, until at length we come to the full and complete
fruition of that blessed and celestial life which thou hast promised
to us, and procured for us by the blood of thy only begotten Son.
End of the Commentaries on Haggai.